Two Poems from Ellaraine Lockie’s “Tripping with the Top Down”

Prolific poet Ellaraine Lockie has a gift for revealing the spirit of a place with a perfectly chosen character sketch or a quirky interaction that invites us to think twice about how we move through the world. In her work, travel produces enlightening friction between an unfamiliar environment and the unnoticed edges of ourselves. Tripping with the Top Down (FootHills Publishing, 2017), her 13th chapbook, takes us along on her tour of the American West, from her Montana birthplace to her native California and points between. The two poems below, reprinted with permission, depict moments when the concerns of the mind intersect unexpectedly with those of the body.

Reading at the Little Joy

Daydreaming on a winter evening
in front of the host bar on Sunset Boulevard
I’m already lost in the drama
that waits with closed mouth
on the other side of the locked door

When two young men stop
and one asks How much
I say Oh, not much longer
Maybe ten minutes
He looks at his buddy whose eyebrows
squeeze together under glasses
I ask You guys wanna read

The head with glasses turns to the other
Well, what’aya think
But not before a long look at me
And through car light reflecting off his lenses
I see a woman in black wearing mini-skirt
lacey tights and cowboy boots
Weight on one hip with jaws working
a pack of Wrigley’s Polar Ice
and leaning against the Little Joy’s wall

And in one snap of gum I’m rabbit-aware
of bodily discharges that stain
the sidewalk and air
Music in the distance with the throb
of a slow leather whip
And an empty needle in the gutter

The first guy says Too whacky
And they continue to the next corner
Eight minutes left
before I return to my native language

****

In Bed with Edgar Allan
at the Sylvia Beach Hotel

What woman would think the ending
could be so exquisitely executed
in the arms of Edgar Allan Poe
That he could be more comforting
than all those support groups
books, herbs and hormones
This man who understood loss, mourning
and madness better than any of them

Across the blood-red and black room
a stuffed raven witnesses the war
between acceptance and never-ending longing
for when life still bloomed and seeds flowered
A battle Lenore didn’t live long enough to fight

My resolve swings as polemic
as the plastic pendulum with scythe above the bed
Insomnia sends me to Poe’s bookshelf
Where I find a tortured prisoner
who realizes there is no choice but death
before he is snatched from its immediacy

And I am rescued with him
Anxiety lifts with the moon which spotlights
the bricked-over passage painted on the wall
Not even the tip of Fortunato’s hat
squeezed from brick before his bibliophilic fate
keeps me from falling into the abyss of sleep

The circular vise of night
Hot and sweaty before the tidal wave of chills
An awakening in a pool so red and spread
that the maid will think abortion with coat hanger
Instead of a harbinger for barren
Or hell’s fire flooded one final time
Cramps, craziness, leaks and stench
being what the raven meant when it said Nevermore

—————————————-
Each room in the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport,
Oregon, honors a famous writer.

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