Road Runner Cafe, Dayton, Nevada
Day after Thanksgiving, your friends gone home,
the leftovers left behind, pecan and sweet
potato pies given to the ranger.
He’s grateful for these treats, his holiday
dinner eaten alone, your invitation declined.
He lives all year in the park, has a spot
under the oldest cottonwood. You ask
about breakfast, and he recommends
the Roadrunner. Thick bacon, fresh eggs.
The waitress has her arms full of platters,
eggs in all their many glories, bouquet
of sausage and the promised bacon, wedges
of orange, sprigs of parsley. More potatoes.
You will thank the ranger for this place,
for its dusty leatherette booths, its music.
When the waitress brings your order, she’s swaying
along to Steve Miller-really love your peaches,
wanna shake your tree. You, too, love this song,
remember being 17, the urgent crossing
of state lines, the sweetest boy beside you,
how you both sang this dozens of times,
ate eggs and white toast at truckstops,
your bare feet resting on his thighs, the booth
your private place, chapel of possibility.
Both of you were certain then this sort
of freedom was pure covenant–plenty
of gas, decent meals, an unknown road,
someone to run with, forever, ever, amen.
You didn’t think to be thankful. It was just eggs.
The Infrequent, Yet Beautiful, Trumpeters
are swans, seen rarely but always a wonder
at Spring Valley State Park, Pioche, Nevada.
The park’s visitor guide heralds the birds,
says campers and hikers share the canyons
with eagles, hawks, herons, avocets, and yes,
the infrequent, yet beautiful, trumpet swan.
It’s the yet that puzzles, suggests that strangers
are more exquisite than regulars,
a theory you intend to challenge
in the dark bar of the Overland Hotel.
The bartender’s name is Dakota,
and she makes a mean Bloody Mary.
A sizzler with green beans, pepperoni slice,
it’s a salad in a tumbler. You’ll have two
before you buy a couple of cows, porcelain,
one wearing a red bow, the other dangling
earrings, not unlike those you once lost.
As you consider ordering a third drink
or leaving to cross the street for burgers
at the Ghost Town Art & Coffee Co.,
where a retired rocker hand pats the meat,
grills it over coals out back, a tourist takes
the stool it on your left, a regular takes
the right. The tourist is from Boulder City,
and it’s her first visit to Pioche. She’s okay
with the smokers, says she used to smoke
Marlboro Lights, then went on a menthol binge
until a new husband made her give it all up.
She’s curious about the sign behind the bar:
No pipes, cigars or aromatic cigarettes–
Aren’t all smokes aromatic, she askes,
and isn’t that the point? The regular
orders beer and a shot, pulls a photo
of a young man with a mullet cut
and a wide grin of bucked teeth, pulls it from
his shirt pocket, places it face up,
closes his eyes, raises both glasses in toast.
When others who seem to frequent this place
trickle in, they pat his back, squeeze his arm,
raise their own glasses. Nothing is said.
You’ll have that third drink, think again about
the infrequent, yet beautiful, trumpeters,
how some songs are best heard loudly, others
in a shadowed, quiet place. There’s surely
a frequency of pain, of grief, of pure
and abundant disaster everywhere.
Yet, for now, most of that is outside.
In here the sin is sweet. It’s beautiful.
Gailmarie’s next reading at Sundance Books and Music in Reno
O Bone, Of Ash, Of Ordinary Saints, A Nevada Gospel. Published by WSC Press
Find all of Gailmarie’s published work at your local bookstore here.
Gailmarie is currently teaching a summer writing workshop for older adults in Silver City, Nevada. More info here. The workshop is currently full. Contact Quest Lakes at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if any seats might become available.
Gailmarie Pahmeier has been a Nevadan for 37 years. Now Emerita, she taught creative writing and contemporary literature courses at the University of Nevada, where she was honored with the Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award and the University Distinguished Teacher Award. She is currently on the faculty of the low residency MFA Program at Sierra Nevada University. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has garnered a number of awards and has been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. She is the recipient of three Artists Fellowships from the Nevada Arts Council, including the prestigious Major Project Fellowship. She is the author of The House on Breakaheart Road, The Rural Lives of Nice Girls, and Of Bone, Of Ash, Of Ordinary Saints (WSC Press, 2020, nominated for the High Plains Book Award), in addition to three chapbooks, one of which, Shake It and It Snows, won the Coal Hill Chapbook Award from Autumn House Press. She has received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the state of Nevada, has served the City of Reno as its first Poet Laureate, has been inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, and she has been recognized by Nevada Humanities as an Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities. In September of 2021, she accepted the position of Poet Laureate, State of Nevada, a 2-year gubernatorial appointment. She lives in Reno between the river and the railroad tracks with her husband, two exuberant dogs, and a couple of complicated cats.
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