“Ruby’s last dress,” “Dialectics After Dark” and “Morningside at the Desert Casino”

Issue 29 by Dawn Terpstra

Ruby’s last dress

is the color of desert flowers

after a late spring monsoon,

purple pops on barrel cactus, pink of prickly pears,

pleated across a canvas of rock-damp sand.

On a bench she waits a hot afternoon,

wind gritty across her face.

Cross-legged she sits late through ember-ash twilight,

until night hawk screes low into pinion scrub.

What a miracle if bodies swimming down sidewalks

were fish gliding through currents,

where he in a shadowed shallow,

grabs for her flash-silver slickness.

Flapping fins, beating heart, clenched in one hand.

Water in dreams runs downhill,

disappears down a sandy arroyo,

blessed by something that is not God

but a magician with a bottle of Milagro,

as if dresses, fish, and he who once loved them,

a mirage, dissolving on some horizon.

Dialectics After Dark

My muse and I pull the sheets, words

crawl into a box beneath the bed.

Some spread doomy-disquietude, others

stanza-ed surprise, loneliness taken

like a wrestler, leg-locked eye-locked,

victory for a change. We share a language

I would never trade like a gem from earth’s

cradle to the ambivalent light between air walls,

or to sleazy illumination in a drunk-choked bar.

We agree, fairytales are dark and sienna

Crayola on construction paper, honest.

And what about the arrogance of colons

to abrupt uncertainty? Once metaphor

grew green and antioxidant-rich, now lines

bake barren, weedy with distraction.

Somehow tercets signal form ready to speak

in God-perfect timbre. We savor detail’s

pungent bite – weather sirens, nights

pregnant with humidity, white-haired couples

spinning to brassy-beats. Let’s not forget

the push on our tongues to suppress dialect

knocking on glass, locked out talking politics

at last call, while the vacuous miss glances

and whispers like lavender among hemlock.

By your eyes, I would never suffocate

sparks in our shared breath, or tear

roots tangled in our felicitous dirt.

Who asks anymore, are you happy? and means

peace worn on wet lips and the satiated

hum-of-soul against a pulsing chest.

Dawn’s first purpling thoughts

open a heavy door, kiss us goodbye,

as gadwalls call from marshy-mist.

Who would complicate truth

to trade for anything more

or pen a perfect less?

Morningside at the Desert Casino

Travel is a roll of the dice.

Like today, waking

to the pinking of your ridgetop

beyond the road, nestled in line

among the Rincon mountains.

Big sky floor filled in misty

slumber, percolating purples

nudge stony shoulders

to sweep light’s ticking

hands across another day.

Your yawn opens wide

valleys of Sonoran splendor,

saguaro, sagebrush spread

like a slow spill washing night

shadows into daylit drains.

Eggshell blue streams high,

wind-waves for wispy-skiffs.

One sunrise, perhaps, those

inside will wrap their fingers

into your sandy feet, grasp

for the sacred seed spilled

from your Mother’s burlap.

Shrieking pineapple sevens

and spinning double cherries

cascade by quarters,

half pulls at our rabbit hunger.

About the Author

Dawn Terpstra

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Dawn Sly-Terpstra is pursuing her lifelong passion of writing poetry and non-fiction. She values the mentorship she finds from the poets of Omega and Sisyphean Writers. With masters degrees in both anthropology and family studies, she enjoys discoveries of culture, magic, and family wherever she travels. With deep roots in her home state of Iowa, she is inspired by connections to the natural world. Her work appears in Lyrical Iowa, Haiku Journal and Cathexis Northwest Press. She has spent a career in communications and marketing and currently leads a corporate communications team.