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Summer Night in Grangeville

Wayne raises a lit Roman candle
with his right arm, shooting fire
into the sky from the parking lot
of the Elkhorn Lodge Motel.
His straw Stetson shields his brow
from white sparks raining down.

I fret; we are too long in the tooth
and too far from a hospital and
if his flannel coat catches fire
I’ll douse it with the last cold beer.

Wayne thinks I’m too city,
always getting it wrong—prairie
versus plains, and it’s not grape seed,
it’s rapeseed, the Palouse hills
bright yellow-green in daytime
everywhere you look.

One thing I do know—if you ever
want to see real love, a great love, sheer
and true, true love, go to a small town
and watch a man work the fields all day
then follow him home to his wife.

Wayne’s place is still strung up with the garlands
Sandra put up last Christmas, and he’s down
to the last angel food cake in the freezer
which is how he remembers she’s gone.
There’s no one to tell him not to,
so he continues—holds the candle high,
aims it west. Without her,
his body is a lone, white pine
slowly busting out another ring, counting time,
torch raised to the stars.