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Notes Between Swing and Graveyard

John Morrison reads “Notes Between Swing and Graveyard” from his book Heaven of the Moment , at the Douglas County Headquarters Library in Roseburg on May 13th. John was part of the Oregon Book Awards Author Tour to Klamath Falls, Medford and Roseburg on May 12th and 13th.

Notes Between Swing and Graveyard

We were on our first real wage job, summer
at the Del Monte plant,
at night an island of pink light
in the wide valley’s dark sea.
After a month of apricot, we
sorted tomatoes from rats for ketchup,
soup, sauce, and saved the firm
for Safeway. The married few
on the shift made each of us long
for a lover to make money beside us

and then, at home in an apartment
on Iowa or Mays Street, wander her body
still damp from sweat, still dulled
by work into the morning, as far
as muscle could last. Without a wife,
without a girlfriend, and so worn out
by the season of packing and canning
that took use with sore hands and sour hair
to the lip of sunrise, who would have us?

Who could find us? We began to swap notes
with the senoritas and girls
from the other high school who giggled
and left swing as we pulled up for graveyard.
More florid each night, more freighted
with moon and stars and promises,
our missives were drawn on jagged corners
of kraft paper used to line the crates
of ripening fruit. I wrote to Reneé,

and she wrote back and we never said
a word on the thick folds slipped
in each other’s locker. I’d write at break, the dead
center of night, as her strawberry hair
must’ve spilled across her pillow in sleep.
Her notes to me I would jam unread into my
jeans pocket rather than ever share
with my friends. Shift’s end, in the gravel
parking lot, before starting my ailing truck

and heading off, slowly I’d unfold
her sweet cursive like the gift it was,
as the light outlined the distant Sierra,
with day just coming up around me
and read and know her teases
counted like a dream left in sleep.

From Heaven of the Moment by John Morrison

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