“Gravel Ghost or Gravel Gertie,” a Poem by Alice Notley

From the Collection “Being Reflected Upon”

April 22, 2024  By Alice Notley

Gravel Ghost or Gravel Gertie

I got the shuttle in Dallas
The man sitting beside me window seat
Slept. He was wearing new spiffy boots
and a sort of combat outfit. Then he woke up
Asked to get out and came back from the restroom
wide awake and talkative—drugs? I remember he
told me he’d been in, no still did work for, the
Special Forces. Had been in Europe just now so
I told him I lived in France and we discussed how
the euro was doing. He said he also worked in Vegas—
where we were headed—as a bodyguard for
Sheldon Adelson. I couldn’t remember who
that was. The guy had in fact grown up in Vegas
I’d grown up in Needles. We were flying in
over Lake Mead. I remember because I
just came across a photo of a flower called Gravel
Ghost said to grow near Lake Mead white petals
serrated top edges here photographed as slightly
blurry, ghostly. Going to Needles because
Momma’s dying… She used to gamble at the
Hotel what was its name, in Henderson where Adelson…
The man next to me and I resemblant by coming from
the same desert and knowing Europe… I will stay
the night in the DoubleTree… the lake is drying up…
My brother was in LRR not Special Forces in Nam…
I used to be a pacifist but now I’m nothing but soul…
Gravel Gertie the bag lady in Dick Tracy was the
local nickname in Needles for Marie my
heroine in my book of poems Culture of One…
Gravel Ghost you beauty you one-­eyed star
Purple verbena everywhere existent and certain yellows
plus Indian paintbrush in Arizona, red…


Being Reflected Upon - Notley, Alice

Being Reflected Upon by Alice Notley is available via Penguin Books.

Alice Notley
Alice Notley
Alice Notley has published over forty books of poetry, including (most recently) Benediction, Negativity’s Kiss, and Certain Magical Acts. She has received many awards including the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Award, the Griffin International Prize, two NEA Grants, the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She lives and writes in Paris, France.

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