In April, I believe only in lilac, dogwood, and wisteria—such sudden-
ness and color, indecency and mess, always opening and opening,
and fading and falling away.
When I walk a city street, say, Louisville, or Tacoma, and there is the
stink of creosote and iron and fried fish, I believe in creosote and
iron and fried fish.
That day the sky was brass and rust, that day I drove twelve hours
straight and still didn’t make it out of Texas, that day I finally
pulled over at a roadside grocery ninety miles from nowhere, on
that day I believed above all things in cold beer.
One night when I was seventeen, Melissa pulled me into the lit skirt of
a streetlight as the first snow began to fall and kissed me on the mouth, and
I believed in love.
Near Ash Flat, Arkansas, along the banks of the Strawberry River, our
first cross country road trip and the farthest south either of us had
ever been, my twenty year old brother chased fireflies for hours.
When the half-light fades from blue to further blue, and the lake goes
stone dark, and I have caught nothing all day, I believe, always, in
one last cast.
One night when I was nineteen, Melissa called to tell me that she wasn’t
sure why but anyway it was over, and I believed in love.
The cold evening in Birmingham, lost near the steel years, radio spit-
ting static, I just kept driving.
I those first days after my father died, when my mother sat moon-
faced at the kitchen table for hours, I’d wake my little brother and
slick an iron skillet with bacon grease and fry eggs.
Leaving Spokane, everything I could possibly call mine crammed into
a short-box Chevy pickup, I believed in open windows and
wind and her dark hair in the wind.
One night when I was twenty-seven, I watched a man in a bar on the
south side of Billings, Montana, dry his eyes with his shirt sleeve
and kiss the back of his own hand, and I believed in love.
And here at my desk this morning, staring out the window down the
gravel alley, I believe in sunlight and silver leaves, the carved bark of
cottonwoods, all those hearts and arrows.
Joe Wilkins was raised on the high plains of eastern Montana and now lives in northern Iowa. His poems, essays, and stories have appeared in The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, Ecotone, The Sun Orion, and Slate, among other magazines and literary journals."Manifesto" was published in his 2012 collection of poems, Notes from the Journey Westward.