Martha's Cafe

Weeds stretch high in the parking lot,
windows are boarded, doors, sealed tight,

peeled strips of white paint flutter
like flags of failure in the wind.

This is George, Washington,
half way between Montana and the Pacific.

Truckers don't venture off the freeway anymore,
intent on cherry pie their wives deny them

in Glendive, Missoula, Butte. Farmers don't leave
combines running outside, sit, bellies on counter,

sip coffee, fib about being rich and single
to the slim waitress, who calls them Hon.

Yes, Martha's gone now, trading George
and miles of empty sky and promises,

bed behind the diner, for Mount Vernon
and a new lover called Lucky, local cop in control

of chance, hope arriving with each red light.
Truth is, I'm driven to stop here 10 times a year,

pull off I-90 at midnight, take pot-holed road
to cafe remains, let my rig idle outside,

feel decay whip mistakes into bad memories,
see dust devils circle nothing in moonlight.

Kenworth pointed west, I wish the past back,
dream of forgiveness, perform my ritual:

write poems by dome light on napkins
for Martha and her pie. I vow to myself,

some trip soon I won't stop, just roll by,
phone for help, at least reach out, send

a firm warning, one about obsession:
If you leave by 3 for Mt. Vernon,

drive like hell, you still cannot deliver
a truckload of sonnets by dawn.

Timothy Pilgrim