Summer Leaving Oklahoma Before the Advent of Global Warming

by Nick Norwood


Some morning in late September

he’d stumble in the diner ragged

as a dandelion in a dust storm:

ripped jeans, wrecked hat, boots

busted. Hacking his smoker’s cough.

He’d sit at the counter, bum a cig,

stir his coffee too loud staring—blank,

glum—through fly-specked glass.

He’d say he was waiting on a ride.

You’d think, Chicken shit. Same SOB

you saw loafing under a hackberry

while you were sweating your ass off

loading hay, found waiting in the loft

when you got to the barn. Lurking

on her front porch when you tried to

slip away in the night. Running

his mouth in the AA bleachers. Drunk

at the VFW bar. Once, you and some

buddies tried chasing him down,

coon-dogged him halfway to Idabel

before he disappeared—poof—into

open prairie just north of the river.

And then: you’d look up from your

coffee and find him gone, nothing

but a thin curl of smoke rising

from his stubbed-out cigarette,

the front door closed, dead-shut,

its little bell mute, un-tinkled.

And you’d think: Good riddance,

and snap flat your newspaper.

Thank God he doesn’t stay longer.

Originally published in This Land: 2016