Yesterday Will Be Better

By PETER JAY SHIPPY

 

Lucas had to work late, or else.
When he left the office

The stars were open
And the bars were closing. 


Couples held tight, like
Books and page markers.

He ran to the station
To catch the last ride home.

He was the only passenger—
The last lamb in the dell.

From his window the world
Looked at the far end

Of the telescope—finally
He could sigh and unwend.

He circled a traffic island
Layered with plastic palms.

A troupe of taupe scouts
Wheeled a cannon-sized flashlight

Across Grande Boulevard,
Looking for lost treasure.

The driver parked them
In an alley so she could smoke

And phone her man at Dawn Downs—
“Calliope in the first.”

Had she forgotten Lucas?
No skin off his teeth.

He climbed out and up
To the luggage rack to bask

In moth-eaten lamplight.
He mulled the graffiti:

ARCHIMEDES BATHED HERE.
Him too? Lucas thought. Eureka. 


He smelled cinnamon
And looked in time to catch

One auburn curl slipping
The spice peddler’s burnoose

As she dashed through
The baker’s delivery door.

Yesterday will be better,
Lucas whispered, repeating

His mother’s cantra,
Told to him, often, as she wrapped

His bruised head in a bandage
Before applying her slipper

To his ass and send him, gently
Back into the world of pent

And repent. The driver beeped
And they drove through a park

And then off road, down
A path bordered by columns

Of black larches as Lucas hung
To the roof like a breath.

Near dawn she dropped him
On a green, wooden bench

In a kiosk—a bus stop—
In a leafy district. Salut!

Well, this wasn’t home but
Who was Lucas to complain?

Others joined him—
Older folks, elegantly dressed,

Holding leather briefcases
And crocodile clutches.

One man read a yellowing
Newspaper, while a woman spoke

Into a cell phone, shaped
Like a cigarette case:

“They spend all day watching
Cooking shows but only eat

Fast food, which is hard to catch,
Because they’re so slow.”

Lucas nodded off and dreamt
Of apple crisp and sticky buns—

When he awoke, the sun was up
And his fellow travelers

Were queuing to board
A yellow van. He joined the line,

But was stopped at the door
By a white lab coat

Wielding a clipboard,
“Sorry,” she said. “This

Is for patients, well—natives,
As we call them.” She zapped

The van’s emblem with her laser
Pointer: Arbor Days.

Behind them, atop a hillock
Was the rest home, pink

Like a fairy castle
Made from antiseptic cakes.

“This kiosk’s a replica
To trap errant patients—natives,

Who are trying to escape
Into their old lives.

They don’t remember
Their names or what they ate

For breakfast, but they know
That a bus stop brings you

Home. By the time
We return them to Arbor Days

They’ll have forgotten why
They ever wanted to leave us.”

The van pulled away.
Lucas sat down to wait

For a ferry or a coach
Or maybe a small zeppelin.

This was a workday. Someone
Was surely coming for him.

 

 

Peter Jay Shippy is the author of Thieves’ Latin, Alphaville, and How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic.

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Yesterday Will Be Better

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