Ruby red slippers, a key,
or the way to go home
plotted on a wrinkled map stuffed into the glove compartment,
desert roads twined through wilted towns.
At the counter, the woman’s eyebrows wince
as the oven air breezes through the door.
Her potato face and broken pot teeth
Twist in a smile.
The rattle of the air-conditioner sweeps out the door,
caught up in the wake.
She looks out the window, at the speeding car.
She tried to go home once, a long time ago,
after two years hard living in Reno.
But the wizard’s balloon deflated before she made it,
And she got off here instead, in
Sometimes, she takes off her denim,
admires again her legs.
They look the same as they did then,
long and curvy (he used to call them her money makers)
– and it was true,
The gamblers tipped her extra when she brushed against them
gin and tonic.
She slips on her old sparkling heels,
Her legs stretching down, languid under her
pooched stomach, sagging breasts.
She blows smoke through her nostrils,
In t-shirt, underwear, and winking heels,
swaying to the refrain of the honky tonk blues.
Then she’s running, a swift-sure flying run,
back to the thunderous heat of summer days,
spent, under the porch steps, tasting the dust,
sucking up the shade in deep gulps,
Sara lying next to her, too tired to move,
(except to poke, giggle)
and they look together into the glimmering future, towards the
glitzy spectacle of the Emerald City – dances, dates, jewels, lovers, and
– Teresa Ingram
Download “Jean, Nevada: Population 5” as a PDF.