Where Is Pickle River?

Stuck in last century’s music,
she can smell the lilacs.
Her last-century cat
is sneezing again.

Her eyes are bigger
than her ears, than her eyes,
than her mind. If she squints,
she can see books and CDs

crookedly spooling
all the way to Mars.
Only a few to blame
for this mess of them

all over her path.
(Damn Minnesota boys again.)

Some other spring,
they are reading passages
from The Bluest Eye
to each other

on her dorm room twin bed
inside Nicholson 7.
He doesn’t take off
his motorcycle boots.

She doesn’t care. That floor
will become substance free someday.
When she becomes brave,
she will ask a lover, or a stranger, or both:

Are you made of body
copy, or are you a headline

standing above a bulleted list
of blue just before it turns gray
feathers with captions
running cold beneath your feet?

An expert voice says
check out the penultimate one
for the most fully-formed farewell
display of lines and notes.

It’s time to listen to Bowie’s “The Next Day.”
Once again, it’s time to ask:
Why is Uncle Tupelo’s “Pickle River”
an instrumental?

Just like with “Sandusky,”
depriving us of that voice

is a crime. “We’re criminals here
looking for something to do.”
She’s a damn thief
with pieces of “what if” gold

hidden in the lining of her purse.
Early to everything,
she’s always late to the party—
busy researching the reason

for all those old-fashioned wooden
billboards still drenching
Hennepin Avenue.
Cruising down the highway

without a vehicle,
she mismatches song lyrics
without bothering
to look up the source

of a river
with its one natural waterfall
relocated in the name of flour.
No, that source she knows—

way up north
and west. No,
not a headwaters,
but a wellspring

of fears about the scaffold
she sees from the back.

Some say the old Grain Belt Beer
bottle cap sign will light up
the Minneapolis sky again.
She hopes to be never lit again.

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