Road Church

Road Church began as a concept introduced by Erica Baker–and April became fascinated by the “vestibule” of the car and all it’s possibilities.  This appeared as a mini-chapbook for River City Poetry, a Wichita-based online poetry journal, which April currently edits.  The poem is now available here, in its entirety.

Road 1

 

  • Both images are the work of photographer Melody Sircoulomb, and appear here as they did in the chapbook

RoadChurch

1
July 2016

They finally sleep from the backseat,
my ears full from the pressure
of all that noise trapped
inside the vestibule of this car.

I can love them like this,
precious,
quiet,
sleep-warm
and soft breath.

We leave the radio off,
watch the road and traffic,
not really part of it,
floating,
heat trapped between his palm and mine.

We won’t stop,
not for anything,
not a snack or a sunset or a restroom,
this infinite moment of peace,
the road some kind of perfect.

I can talk to God here,
no pressure or ritual,
just a still second with road hum and cicadas.

2
Fall 2014

I’ve cracked the window,
let out the music—99 Red Balloons—
and let in the smell of moist ground
after the faint sprinkling,
not even enough to switch on wiper blades.

The rhythm of the road vibrating
up through my thighs
in unpredictable hums
and bumps
and burrs
that blend together.

Western Kansas,
nothing but wind and railroad tracks,
turbines and pumpjacks.

We’re on our way to Taos,
two women with a playlist
and some fashion magazines.

We’re both going to be bored
to chewing on our nails,
screeching out song lyrics,
eating too much candy.

 We’ll both be awed by trees
that look like monsters outside of Philmont.

We’ll both be so grateful to find
our hotel with clean sheets and a hot tub
somewhere on the property.

3
Summer 1995

There was a time after
my stepbrother Ryan died,

his head pressed between the steel frame
of his truck door and the red clay dirt
of the culvert on old Hubbard road,

There was a time when every long row of cars
was the line of mourners that stretched

behind the family limousine, headlights on
in the bright afternoon sunshine,

July heat battered away
by dripping car air conditioners,

the silence trapped like a bubble
inside the limo
and nowhere to get a breath.  

There was a time when I would count
other funeral processions

just to see if they had more cars than my brother,
because it just seemed to me at seventeen,

a life could only be measured
in the length of the line of cars.

4
Christmas Eve 2003

More than once
we’ve found ourselves

stranded

on some long and lonely road,
not metaphorically,
but literally.

Like that time
our thumbs were out

on a dark Christmas Eve,
while I cried and shivered
because I couldn’t decide
if it would be better
to be picked up by a sociopath
or freeze to death by the side of HWY 70.  

In my frustration at the death of the car,
I had broken off the brittle interior handle

of the ‘84 Camaro,
with it’s dashboard light effects
and speedometer bar.
“It’s a classic,” you said.
“Vintage.”  

So I got used to sitting low to the ground,
tried not to over-gas it,
spin out the tires,
made the best of it because it was cheap
and we were broke.
Secretly it reminded me
of french-rolled jeans
and tee-shirt barrettes.  

But right then,
as something choked

  and sputtered

     and died in that car,

as the power steering went out

and you managed to get us

  over to the shoulder,

     iced over and white,

as I realized that we couldn’t just sit

in the car and wait for someone to rescue us,
when I broke off that door handle,
a tiny part of my romantic love for you
broke off,
and you became a little chipped.

5
Now and Then

How did we travel before the Garmin?
Before TomTom or GoogleMaps,
before our cellphone GPS,
when we had to stop for bad directions,
pee on the side of the road,
sleep in our car because we had no idea
there was a hotel just ten miles down the road.  

We just got in our cars
and expected to get somewhere.  

One time I ended up in Missouri
when I was trying to get to
Eureka Springs, Arkansas.  

But I was in my ‘78 Delta 88,
feeling grown-up following my McNally atlas.  

My girls will never know the joy of turning
the map the other way around,

of not being sure just when they’ll arrive,
of interpreting gutterals and pointings,
begging for the bathroom key
secured with a toilet-seat-lid.

I’ve driven the stretch of 1-35
between Wichita and Blackwell
hundreds of times.  

I’ve taken the turn north of Perry
onto the Cimarron turnpike to Tulsa
just as many.  

Muscle memory,
vague automaticity takes over.
I’m in a zen sort of boredom,
some Judith Krantz book-on-tape playing,
always some stretch of construction
never finished.  

I enter the car one person;
exit it another.

Odds & Ends

Poet as Witness and Maternal Poet are both themes that appear frequently in April’s work.   And sometimes, things just end up there by accident.

A Thousand Gallons of Water

I watch the water pour over her,
spitting out of the ground, a
giant cement lizard, hoping
the recycled and chlorinated
dreams of all those other
children won’t taint or poison
her.  I feel shame at my own
shallow need that she wear
shoes.  She stubs her toes, I lie,
even as I tell her one more
time to play with them on, as
if shoes can protect her from
all the sores and heartache.
I wish I could splash, be happy
and naked and shrug off a
stubbed toe, be a three-year-old
with a Quik Trip cup and a
thousand gallons of water.

  • Sand River (2013)

 

Bug-eating

I dared you
to eat a cockroach
because we’d finishedHow to Eat Fried Worms.
Somehow
that all made sense,
that you would eat
that bug
and become super cool,
crunching the exoskeleton
like kettle-cooked chips.But you couldn’t bring it
to your mouth
and a thousand days later,
I can’t really blame you.
But I wonder if maybewe shouldn’t have done it,
all those summers ago,
just to say
we had.

  • Fall 2013, Honorable Mention, Whispering Prairie Press, Kansas City Voices.

 

Pregnant

1.
Counting down, day twenty-one, rolling around on the floor
in concentric, yogic patterns, all in a futile attempt to convince
baby to shift from right to left.

If gestation is any indication of future personality,
this child may be Nixon.
I lose my words somewhere between dinner and Wheel of Fortune.

2.
Day seventeen, baby is still rightly lodged,
back pressed firmly against ribs, so determined
to make her own room, flutter of feet visible
under the dome of my torso.

I’ve given up trying to look anything other than pregnant.
We watch my stomach more closely than television.

Today I am a list, long and full of groceries
I will forget to put in meals.

I am a full balloon stuffed with flour and dried corn pellets.
A bladder.

4.
I am the drum, full round thrum of reverberations,
down through a future history not yet written,
a mother among a million other mothers,
waiting the last few moments before a new child enters the world,

A cliché in all its repetitions,
the rhythmic flare of a marching snare,
such a shattering new thing,
a quiet pebble dropped in still waters.

  • Chiron Review (2015)

 

 

Teachery Poems

There is no real separation between who April is as a poet and her role as a teacher.  Eventually, even her students begin to appear in her work.

Teachering Manifesto

You do this thing where you speed
66 in a 60 MPH zone with the windows
rolled down–the heated air blows 
your mind clean of all the debris and
excess trapped between your ears
from 109 twelve-year-olds and the
electric funk they call thinking.
The cars and trucks roar on Kellogg,
KS HWY 54, 
and you turn the volume up on the
stereo playing cliched 80s tunes
just to remind you that you are more
than expo markers or a smart board. 
You are more than sentence fragments
and completely illogical causal relationships
that only make sense between two slabs
of Wonder white and grape jam.

  • PoetryforTheMasses
  • Sand River (2013)

 

In Middle School

In middle school,
you learn to sit down and shut up.
You learn to cross your arms and your legs.

You learn it’s better, more attractive,
to smile with only a hint of teeth,
to shy away from the snapping bra strap,
to giggle helplessly, cover your mouth coyly,
when you really want
to smack,
beat down,
breath fire.

In middle school,
you learn to hide your tampons in your sock
nestled near your ankle,
in the waistband of your pocketless pants,
because leggings have no secrets.

You learn to outline your eyes,
blush your cheeks and ripen your mouth,
but keep that tongue
silent
because no one likes
a know-it-all.

In middle school,
you learn to be better with words than numbers,
to pretend you don’t understand,
because you’re pretty and
that’s a more tradable commodity
than all the right answers on all the wrong tests.

  • Malpais Review

 

Between 2nd and 3rd Hour

You Cray-Cray she says, and I don’t have the heart
or the courage to tell her that I have no idea what
that means, but since she has her warm brown arm

slung around my neck, I step in tandem. We move
through the hall, her hip brushing mine, the bone an
exclamation point along the side of my body, and

the cacophony blurs out her next words, her face
turned from mine, her voice gleefully calling out.
Her momentum propels me in the wrong direction,

and I have to find the breath to tell her that my class
is the other way, and I worry about being late, and
if I have enough pencils, but mostly I worry about

whether or not she will ever put her arm around me
again, so I keep going. And I know that’s what’s
wrong with my whole life, that I just keep going.

  • Sand River (2013)

 

 

Featured Poems from Sand River

 

The following poems appeared in the chapbook, Sand River and Other Places I’ve Been from Finishing Line Press.  The book is now out-of-print, but the writer has several copies on-hand available for purchase upon request.

Nineteen

In the summer of 2010, my daughter turned two,
the heat blanket-thick, too hot to sleep, too moist to be awake,

wet behind the knees and in all the private creases.
Walking through the door, I stripped down to bra and panties,
baby down to diaper, and we ran
like blonde Cherokee through the house.
On the morning Leah passed,
a gray pigeon slammed into my classroom window,
the glass hip-high to ceiling, a twelve-foot expanse
of sunshine and crackling spiderwebs on impact.
The bird’s neck cracked a final bend as I tried
to pull eager students back from the view.
They did not know death when they saw it.
Disjointed with pale efforts and a drought of words—
A kind word uttered and repeated… a star
fallen from the blue tent upon the green carpet.*
I was nineteen when I met her
in the crisp fall of ‘96—
fresh soil and she was wisdom and water,
and her smile glittered so brightly I would just bask.
I want to be fluid for her,
give forth lines that make meaning of
‘helpless’ and ‘cancer.’
The darkness comes,
that place I dwell with nothing
left to pour forth—
In the depth of my soul there is a wordless song … it refuses
to melt with ink on parchment.*
My ink is the cracked residue,
the pigeon-cracked window.
She handed me The Prophet. “This is for you.”
and I said,
“Speak to me of friendship,”
And she answered, “Let there be laughter.”*
Down a white gravel lane, I once rode in a carriage
restored and preserved, her father silent beside me
as he drove some wide-open stranger his
daughter brought home like an eager stray.
How many of us had he seen?
I cascade with words and rain and
too many such moments
for coherence.
I remember that while I twisted
and struggled to be,
knotted around in my darkness,
she stood firm in the light,
no fear of the day,
and she just knew herself,
Solid.
Perhaps she was saying, even as that gray bird
stepped off his branch into flight,—
Let me sleep, for my soul is intoxicated with love,
and let me rest, for my spirit has had its bounty of days and nights.*
I want to do right, frame her radiance so others will know
But I mourn, grieve rivers that flow from the center
and I watch pieces of me float away.
Then I remember fall twilight and crisp air.
I imagine she picks me up from the bookstore
in her ketchup red ‘62 Volkswagon.
I am nineteen and she plays mix tapes
of Leonard Cohen and the Beastie Boys
all the way out to Ponca lake
with our bottle of strawberry Boone’s Farm.
We sit on a musty car blanket and tell
stories under the stars.

  • from Kahlil Gibran’s Tears and Laughter
  • as first appeared in Chiron Review, Summer 2011
  • and then again in Sand River in 2012.

Blackwell, One Late Night

We sit in matching navy recliners, our feet sprawled out. We argue
over which show to watch next. I like “The Dog Whisperer.” You
prefer “House Hunters.” You stare at my naked feet.

When the shaking begins, I think a tractor-trailer has made a wrong
turn down our lonely street. But then the shudders continue, and the
hairs on my body raise, and I watch you lunge from your chair, the

footstool slamming back, and you turn, such devastation in your eyes,
so much helpless sadness, the moment seems to stretch out like taffy.
Too late, you think, too late to seek shelter, too late to pull your mother

from her bed, her bones thin and light, too late for me to cradle our
daughter, to carry our burdens along the length of the house, the
interminable hallway, back outside to the cellar. In your eyes, I see

the whipping tail of the tornado above our heads, the twisting damage
of the roof spinning down Chrysler Avenue, us strewn over the prairie
like spice sprinkled over the cook pot.

The quiver up through the ground stops gently, my bare feet now
next to yours. An earthquake, not an Oklahoma tornado, and we are
giggling at the absurdity and our own panic, but there’s a shadow on
your face, and I’m suddenly cold.

  • as appeared in Sand River, 2013

Afternoon at the Donut Hole

Part I
I can see Big Ed from Hydraulic,
and I wonder why we can’t do this
at his place or mine.
I wonder if he’s ready for me to meet his mom.
Does the wattle control the sound a rooster makes,
how loud would that be if they just
put a siren in the belly?

Part II
The smells find me as soon as I swing open the door—
crisp maple bacon, peanut butter, fresh coffee beans
I want tea,
something cinnamon
that makes me feel alluring and sophisticated.
I want him to smell me and the cinnamon
and think of Christmas morning and presents.
Tea is grown up,
and I am SOOO an adult now.

Part III
I sit across the enameled face of Mr. Rogers,
stare into the eyes of my love,
my soul mate,
and I want his face to crack like a Braum’s ice cream sugar cone
in the hands of a two-year-old…

The bastard.
I will never meet his mom.

  • as first appeared in Naked City, Aug 2010
  • and then w/ credits, in Sand River, 2013

A Night at Fisch Haus

I’m excited to get to be part of the Fisch Haus Tuesday Night Jazz Series–

A group of ten or so poets will read their work, and then will be accompanied the second time through by musicians improvising based on our reading.  I can’t imagine how that’s going to work out, but part of me is tempted to read my poem like Flo–

Don’t worry.

I won’t do it.

Probably.

Why don’t you come see?

Fisch Haus @ Tuesday, April 11 : 7:30pm