Lynne Thompson

Last O’Clock Ending
With A Sexton Line

She died the last day
of the shortest month

but Mother was 5 feet
short & her Mother was

even shorter than that
and the hours I endured

with each woman were
shortest of all—never

mind the actual number
of days, the arithmetic

of our attachment—of
our reluctance to attach.

And I have yet to speak
of the too-short time with

the owner of the womb
I fell from—nine months

being the time we spent
talking and, now & then,

laughing. See: the season of
our ephemeron. Then it was

done—our irreversible rift—
that was, it seems, 5 seconds

ago. That mythology, too, is
dead, leaving a swallow gone

rogue from her bevy to whistle,
unaccustomed to anything else.



Mother Road
(the old two-lane)

Travelers may call out the names
of the towns and did-ya-see-that’s
dotting the Mother Road but never
know the why of them, like as not.

If their kids’ car games lead someone
to shout out Needles, there’s probably
no one to shout the town was named—
1883—after pinnacles on the Arizona

side of the Colorado River. Needles, hot
as an egg sliding in butter in a skillet,
triple digits by lunchtime. And maybe
the next kid calls out Amboy, Bagdad,

or Barstow—once known as Fishpond
but changed to honor William Barstow
Strong, President, Santa Fe Railroad
until the car southerlies to Cajon Pass

then through to San Bernadino (you can
still hear Nat Cole crooning it, can’t you?)
Next, due west to Claremont, Pomona &
to Santa Monica’s no-blacks-beaches but

in the old days, it didn’t wind along that
fast because the endless Mojave stretch was
the most grueling leg of gotta get somewhere.
After World War II, when you arrived in

Essex, population 100, elevation little more
than 1700 feet, you would be confounded
by wrecked cars, trailer homes, a stone post
office; what was left of Danby, Summit, and

Chambless. The land was bleak and almost
deserted but the dreamers knew there were
sweet tangerines and figs and fresh water
if you just kept on going. Ask the Okies,

the miners, and prospectors determined to
find silver in Death Valley. Before the inter-
state come in, drivers were forbidden to
smoke because forestlands were tinder-dry

but still, they kept coming, ever-flummoxed
by the decision whether to swerve onto High-
way I-15 or Interstate 10 ’til they come upon
a rock with blue paint warning TRUST JESUS.

Years later, the Howard Johnsons, A & Ws,
and McDonalds sprang up as if out of a
tin can of cook’s grease until the old road
squinted at City of Angels where a bit of it

would be called Foothill Boulevard, where
it was difficult to miss the Wigwam Village
Motel silhouetting San Gabriel’s Mountains.
Later, every driver gunned it for kicks like

Martin Milner and George Maharis driving
into Hollywood history in a flashy Corvette
on a black-and-white tv screen. It seems so
quaint now. We know—damn—it never was.



Lynne Thompson is the author of Start With a Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges Association’s New Writers Award. In 2018, she was awarded Honorable Mention for Cave Canem’s Toi Derricote/Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize as well as the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize for her manuscript, Fretwork, which will be published in 2019. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Poetry, Ecotone, Barrow Street, and the New England Review. Thompson is Reviews & Essays Editor for the journal, Spillway.