I have a ticket in my pocket that will take me from Joplin
to Texas in nine hours, from the Ozark Mountains to South Plains,
from my alarm clock and startled blue jays to
pigeons wrangling over sunflower seeds. If I had a daughter I'd take her
with me. She'd sit by the window wearing the blue dress
with the stars and sickle moons, counting farmhouses and cemeteries,
watching the barbed wire rope on fence posts slip by while I sat
beside her pretending to read, but unable to stop studying
her in disbelief. Her name would tell her that she's beautiful.
Belle. Or something strong, biblical. Lydia. She would tolerate
the blue jay and weep for the pigeon; she would have all the musics
he wanted and always the seat by the window. If I had a daughter
she would know who her father is and he would be home writing letters
or playing the guitar, waiting for us, and I would be her mother.
We'd have a dog, a mutt, a stray we took in from the rain one night
in November, the only stray we ever had to take in, one night in our
cabin in the Rocky Mountains of Southern New Mexico. It would be impossibly simple:
two train tickets; a man, a dog, waiting; and a girl with her nose pressed to the window.