Episode 022: Tea Leaves and Tastykake
Present at the Editorial Table:
Kathleen Volk Miller
PBQ Box Score: 3=0
For this episode, we look at three poems by Laura Sobbott Ross.
Laura Sobbott Ross lives in a rural, hilly part of inland Florida where horses and hothouses of orchids abound. She loves to take pictures on long drives through the open land, and to sing to the radio with the windows wide, which conjures threats from her teenagers, but her dogs don’t seem to mind. You will find paint on her clothes at any given time. She’s taught English to students from dozens of countries, and has two poetry chapbooks: A Tiny Hunger (YellowJacket Press) and My Mississippi (Anchor & Plume Press.)
First, we’re transported to the sunny beaches of “Bora Bora,” where we find ourselves with some trouble in paradise. We follow that off trying to decipher “The Walrus in the Tea Leaves,” where we’re left with more questions than answers. And finally, we throwback to The Eagles’ “Hotel California” with “Déjà Vu.” Even though we do check in, we’re not so sure if we ever want to leave!
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Don’t forget to read on!
A shaft of blue splintered into a thousand
nuances, shed them into the sea beneath our tiki hut—
wedged on stilts into hunger clouds of shimmery fish,
oysters lipping black pearls. We married there,
on the shore between the neon chakra of sky & water,
a handful of drowsy natives shaking New Year’s Eve from
the folds of their pareos. Dancing, a tide etched in sand.
Later, petal-strung in whites already sighing into sepia,
from our balcony we sought those old stars from home.
Palm trees swaying festively in dark silhouette across
the unadorned horizon of the Pacific. Love, a sugared rim
we shared in sips, cowry shells strung and whispering
at our throats, every edge garnished in hibiscus, sunburn,
pineapple. In the shallows, the moray eel we’d spotted earlier—
prehistoric face bobbling from his pulpit of stone. Before
the ceremony, we’d tossed in our pockets of foreign coins—
wishes aimed at his blind scowl. Later, moonlight uprooted
the slippery ribbon of his tail, while the current floated him,
floorboard by floorboard, across you & me; a benediction
in a sleeve of sea water, the round polyp mouths of the reef
opening in the dark like a choir.
Darling, it wasn’t the news you’d expected.
And when you told me about it, I’d giggled,
conjured images of broken symmetries—
kaleidoscope and compass, magnetic poles
and mirrors gone random. I knew what
you were hoping for, how you’d tilted your
throat back and swallowed down the void.
The psychic parsing through the wrack line
for messages left in seaweedy clots of Chamomile
or Earl Gray. Speckle and flack— dark nebula
splat against a bone-colored sky. You said
she’d seemed baffled by the walrus—
awkward animal, all teeth and tail. You
told me he’d risen twice from the wet ashes
that morning, buoyant and robust in his
island cup, nosing through the diorama of dregs
like a seafloor of mollusk shells pursed shut;
his mouth, an insistent imprint on the rim.
There has to be darkness and a highway.
Beyond the shoulders of the road,
a topography, splayed and lit in street lamps.
You’re seventeen, and Hotel California
is playing on the radio. If you look close
enough, you can see the silhouette of
mountains beyond your own reflection
in the car window. To the right, an anchor
store in a strip mall. To the left,
the gas station where high school boys work—
the good looking ones who sweep the silk
of their long bangs from their eyes
with puppy-soft hands, and ask if you want
regular or unleaded. Watching them comb
your windshield clean beneath
the squeegee’s wide, forgiving blade,
you might imagine whispering: Save me,
and wonder, does anyone do that anymore?—
the windshield washing, you mean, of course,
and you know that if you slid your fingers
inside the thick baffles of their goose-down
vests, down into the warmth beneath
their soft-as-ash flannel shirts, your palms
would smell like gasoline and their father’s
Old Spice, and that in the star bristled night,
every imagined kiss was a curfew, exquisitely unfair,
and a promise you had made in a fever to return
home what you’d borrowed just the way you found it.