SmokeLong Quarterly
top menu
Nearly Free
by Dorianne Laux

art by Robinson Accola
art by Robinson Accola
We drove up the 101, Patricia riding shotgun, her bare, unpainted toes spread out on the dash, rivers of dried sand glittering along the hollows of her ankles in the windshield sun. We were talking about Freud, Bob Dylan, our boyfriends. Nothing. Listening to Joni Mitchell, Janis, A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. We ate oranges and avocados. Our hair was long and the windows were open. The warm air rolled in like a Mariachi band. We sang to the radio, tossed the rinds out and watched them tumble in the rear view mirror, the skins hopping off asphalt. Our tongues were coated with oil and citrus. We smoked cigarettes, leaving white filters wet where we’d brought them to our lips and kissed them. Our arms were strong, our legs.

I was white and she was Mexican. We knew how to hide nickel rolls behind our knuckles and hit. For years in the restaurant, we hefted trays stacked with plates of enchiladas and Happy Hour margaritas, lime pinwheels spinning above our heads. Patricia dug into a bag of walnuts and held two in her fist, cracked one husk against the other, offered me the meat. We were driving to the beach. We had our bathing suits on beneath our shorts and t-shirts. We had towels in the back seat and a bamboo mat, a paper bag bulging with peaches from her mother’s tree. Two used paperbacks we bought with our tips.

Things were not free back then, in 1973, but they were nearly free, cheap but good, easy to find, colorful, abundant. You could leave a quarter in a can on the roadside and take a bunch of flowers set in jam jars, or grab a handful of berries, picked fresh.You could rent a two bedroom apartment for 50 dollars a month, no extra charge for a dog, or railroad cat. For fifteen cents, hand made tortillas were wrapped in thin tin foil with a pat of butter or a wedge of cheese folded in the center. The left headlight was shot, the grill held together with rope and electrical tape. We picked seeds from our teeth with a matchbook cover from the restaurant we worked in nights and weekends until it frayed and lost its edge. I pointed at the cows. Patricia drowsed. We were as close to free as we could get.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2015 by its authors.

A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, Dorianne Laux’s fourth book of poems, Facts about the Moon (W.W. Norton), is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award and was short-listed for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. Laux is also author of Awake (1990) What We Carry (1994) Smoke (2000) and Superman: The Chapbook (2008). Co-author of The Poet's Companion, she’s the recipient of two Best American Poetry Prizes, a Best American Erotic Poems Prize, a Pushcart Prize, two fellowships from The NEA and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work has appeared in the Best of APR, Best of the Net, The Norton Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, and many others. She taught for 15 years at the University of Oregon in Eugene and since 2004, at Pacific University’s Low-Residency MFA Program. She and her husband, poet Joseph Millar, recently moved to Raleigh where she joins the faculty at North Carolina State University.

Read the interview.

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.
Issue Twenty-Three (December 15, 2008): Ants by David Aichenbaum «» Earthrise by Christopher Bundy «» The World Before This One by Jon Chopan «» Ghost Bike by Thomas Cooper «» The Sway of Trains by Lydia Copeland «» Impressionists by Debra A. Daniel «» Danseuses Nues by David Harris Ebenbach «» The Head Fields by Terry Ehret «» Shadows by Sherrie Flick «» Heroin Girl by Larry Fondation «» She Doesn't Ask Where He Goes by Stefanie Freele «» Caved In by Barry Graham «» Chicago World's Fair, 1893 by Kyle Hemmings «» Coat and Shoes by Tania Hershman «» Thirteen by Tai Dong Huai «» Phoenix by W.P. Kinsella «» Nearly Free by Dorianne Laux «» Alien Lunch by Liane LeMaster «» The Society for the Preservation of Everything by Kuzhali Manickavel «» 216 East Boalt by Jeannie Vanasco «» Potatoes by Spencer Wise «» Interviews: David Aichenbaum «» Christopher Bundy «» Jon Chopan «» Thomas Cooper «» Lydia Copeland «» Debra A. Daniel «» David Harris Ebenbach «» Terry Ehret «» Sherrie Flick «» Larry Fondation «» Stefanie Freele «» Barry Graham «» Kyle Hemmings «» Tania Hershman «» Tai Dong Huai «» Dorianne Laux «» Liane LeMaster «» Kuzhali Manickavel «» Spencer Wise «» Cover Art "morpheus" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor

bottom menu