It just bursts from me like a thunderclap, only there’s never any clap when my Vision grabs hold. It’s like I fall asleep, but my eyes stay open and the hand holding the pen just moves over the paper all by itself. Sometimes it happens at work, at Al’s All-Nite Diner, and I don’t even hear the truckers yelling when I drop the pot of coffee and take someone’s napkin and start writing on it. There’s always paper in my pocket — the tickets where I write down orders for coffee and ham and eggs and waffles and hamburgers — but I always forget and just go for whatever white paper is in front of me. Sheila says the truckers yell awful things, things would make me turn red as a beet if I heard, but I never hear. Sheila says sometimes they even punch me a little, but I just write faster. I don’t know. I never remember anything that happens once my Talent grabs hold.
Last week I dropped a coffeepot in a trucker’s lap and Al almost fired me, but it was one of my best poems yet. I showed it to Al, and when he saw it he understood that the broken jaw he got, after he knocked the knife out of the trucker’s hand, was a small price to pay. Al read that poem and all he could do was shake his head. Tears came to my eyes, then everything went blank, and when I could see again I was holding a napkin with another poem on it:
Outside the window the trees Pretend to kiss in the breeze
On the other side of the napkin it said, in Al’s handwriting: “1 lb hamburg / 1 pkg hotdogs / marg / dogfood.” So I called the poem “Al’s Ode.”
Later, Sheila told me Al’d yelled bloody murder while I was writing it, but she’d gotten him away and calmed him down before I came out of the Poem. Then Sheila had an inspiration herself and talked Al into putting up a sign outside the diner: Have A Couplet With Your Cuppa.
Turned out word had already started traveling, and the next night the diner was packed with people calling out my name: “Glorry, honey. Over here, sweetheart.” Every single trucker wanted me to deliver coffee and poetry.
Inside with you here where it’s warm I long to be in your arms
It all started when I was just a little girl, too little to know what was happening to me, too little to know that the seeds of my Talent were starting to bud the way sprouts come out of the eyes of potatoes when they’re getting to the point where you’d better mash them or bake them if you don’t want to have to throw them away. The words just poured out of my mouth even before I learned to print. My mother’d stand there, listening and shaking her head with pleasure — except when company came over. Then she’d put me in my room.
But sometimes she’d let me talk to relatives, and my Gift always amazed them. I can’t count the number of times my Aunt Eve said, “Amelia, that child’s the living end, just the living end.” Any time someone’d ask a question, I’d answer with a rhyme. But the best poems, always, were the ones that just came by themselves.
Whenever the sun shines above You can count on the wind for a shove
Tonight at work, a guy says, “Glorry,” and when I look at him he has a kind of halo hanging above his head, like on the 3-D Jesus picture I have at home, the kind where, when you tilt it, the surface shimmers and the halo moves and the eyes follow you. “Glorry,” the guy says, waving his cup, “be an angel and gimme some more of that mud you got there.” Angel, he says. Angel. Then I know who he is and my eyes fill up with tears and the room gets blurry like a Poem’s coming on, but it never comes. I just stand and stare at what I can see of him through the haze until finally he says, “Glorry, doll, come on. I’m dying of thirst.”
“Grab the pot,” another guy says to him, “if you don’t want to end up like Bert. The coffee’s great, but not on your balls.”
“How’s Bert doing?” somebody else asks.
“About six months before he can take a piss,” says Mr. Grab the Pot.
“Hey,” says the Haloed One as he leans over and tries to touch my hand, the one with the coffeepot in it. “Let’s just set it down easy, OK? I can pour my own.”
I’ve always known he’d turn up someday — the only question was when? And now here he is and my throat has closed up and I couldn’t get a word out even if I were in front of a firing squad and the only way to stop the bullets was to yell, “Camelot!” or, “Eggs over easy!” I stare and he stares back, his eyes getting wider and the halo getting brighter. The other truckers in the booths are watching us and talking in low voices, but I can’t hear them anymore, all I can hear is the Music, the Music I’ve heard all my life, getting louder and louder and —
“It’s for you,” I whisper, taking one step toward him, the coffee sloshing in the pot and sending up its steam and its smell of old, burnt tires, “it’s for you, with your eyes of blue. Yes, it’s always, always, always been for you.”