Time Bomb, by James Cihlar

Inspiration comes when we don’t want it. Navigating
the system’s complicated interchanges, an egg-crème moon
balances on a distant viaduct, a right jolly apparition

competing with the skyline’s liquid crystal display
stage left. This morning my partner went to work laughing,
You never let me talk, ten years into a projected thirty-year crisis.

How long does midlife last? Thirteen years ago, my Corolla
came to a dead stop on the crowded exit ramp, a marketing director
driving an author to her engagements, when Debra told me

the doctors had found a clot in her brain they knew would kill her,
a time bomb whose detonation no one could predict. I wanted
to do something for this woman I just met, open the channels.

In neutral on the overpass, I couldn’t even take an alternate.
Today the acupuncturist said the body is a gift we have
for only so long. How well will you treat this treasure?

Tears come at strange times. A million dollar appraisal
on Antiques Roadshow: With no thought for gain,
you have collected the things you love. Or the “On the Atchison,

Topeka, and the Santa Fe” sequence in The Harvey Girls,
George Sidney’s camera pans to Judy emerging from the train.
An ignominious toilet awaits in her future, but on this take she hit her marks.

Or the sixty-one-year-old rampage survivor who, laying on the ground
with the other victims, wrestled the clip from the gunman
before he could reload. On the car radio I hear her testify before Congress:

Changing the past is impossible, no matter how desperately
we want to change it. But it would be a pitiful shame
if no action were taken to change the future.

Debra is still alive, writing in Seattle. Some days you have to roll up
your sleeves and paint a basilica. Until we dissolve into music,
there’s just striving and delay, the taste buds changing key.

Tonight I’m slipping through the tangled, irrational freeway with ease.
Spirit writing of the nervous system. Chi flows through our feet.
All we have is the body, and someone to lie next to us.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 14, Issue 2.

James Cihlar’s second book, Rancho Nostalgia, will be published in 2013 by Dream Horse Press. His work has been published in American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Smartish Pace, and Court Green.

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