Coffins

Daniel Saalfeld

I’d been feeling leather couches all day, putting my fingers
     between the cushions to see if they were leather
there too and rubbing my hands across their backs
     to see if they were real or faux.  I let a salesman
named Seamus tell me about his store’s payment plans,
     and why he was a fan of leather.  He told me the one he knew
I liked, the one I lay down on, was just perfect for me.
     He must have said the same thing a million times before
to a million strangers, and the metaphors for buying a couch
     and the people with whom he’d interacted in the furniture business
must have run wild in his head as he spoke to me,
     another stranger, who himself had begun to make comparisons
to picking out a coffin:  one comfortable to read in
     and take long naps in, one that wouldn’t make my room
look too dark, and one that would fit me, be a second skin
     in which I could daily die and love in.  Yeah, old Seamus
was no fool and didn’t take me for one either,
     not begging me for my name and number before I left
so that he could call me when all the special deals kicked in.
     He just watched me take a picture of the dark brown one
I liked before I walked out to drive to another store
     whose parking lot I recognized as the one I watched on TV
one rainy evening twelve years ago; the one in which a woman,
     while loading her trunk near a hardware store, was shot
by Malvo; the one in which the camera zoomed in on her blood
     flowing out from under her champagne Accord.
Yes, here I was in that same parking lot on a wet January night
     fucking around, really just fucking around, looking to see
if I could get a better couch, a better feel for a better deal.
     But instead of couches, a woman in a mink, smoking a cigarette
as I drove by her to pull into a spot, mesmerized me.
     When I looked back to her, she was gone.
I walked into the bookstore in which I thought she’d entered,
     looked around for her, but found nothing.  My couch store
had closed.  Driving away, I saw her again, leaning again
     against the same column, and I circled around, determined
to get a better look, but didn’t find her.  I caught scowls
     from Arabs instead as I slowly drove by trying to see her
in the coffee shop in which they sat across from each other
     bitching.  Nothing.  I drove away and called a girl
on my ride home.  She told me she wanted to kill herself
     because she was so bored in Ship Bottom, New Jersey.
She told me her place was nice and that I’d like the mural
     of Eve and Adam in the foyer, and that except for a thin strip,
Eve was waxed, and that I should come up in the summer.
     I listened to her talk about her heart attack,
how much money her dad had, and how miserable she was.
     After letting her go on for thirty minutes,
I parked and quickly forgot her and plopped down
     on my old ripped-up floral patterned couch
and turned on the news to watch a bank robber
     slip on a little pile of snow as he backed away from police
and lose his hostage in the process, and get shot and die.

 

 

Daniel Saalfeld’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Hopkins Review, The Southeast Review,The Seattle ReviewCimarron ReviewTar River PoetryTampa ReviewThe South Carolina Review,GargoyleMargieValparaiso Poetry ReviewPoet Lore, and The Pinch.  A Fulbright Scholar recipient, he lectured on modern and contemporary American poetry and creative writing in Russia.  He teaches creative writing at the George Washington and the Johns Hopkins Universities.