by Tom Hunley

I dropped my Ecology class
in college because everyone in it
seemed too earnest too early
every morning. Sure, I cared
about turtles, but not a lot,
I guess, and spotted owls
were little more to me
than vowels pressed between
consonants, just words I mean.

I went without a car,
because, I claimed, I cared
about the air. But since
I didn’t drive, I had
no easy way to recycle
paper. To please my fiancé,
I placed a bag labeled “recycling”
in my kitchen, and I trashed the contents
after each of her visits.

One day, she caught me, and
she said she didn’t know
which hurt the most: my
disregard for Mother Earth
or the lie. She said that she
and the trees couldn’t trust me.
She held our future in
her hands as if inspecting
a slice of cheese for mold,

and I thought I could save what we’d made
together if only I could say
something original, some phrase
as rare as a panda bear,
but I hallmarked. I threw the book
of clichés: stole roses and told her
I loved her, groveled and praised
her skin, her lips, her eyes,
her eyes which softened
with each recycled phrase.

                                                                                          from The Tongue

Tom C. Hunley is the husband of Ralaina Ruvalcaba and the father of Evan Joel Ruvalcaba Hunley. He has degrees from Highline Community College (AA), University of Washington (BA), Eastern Washington University (MFA) and Florida State University (Ph.D.), where he was the recipient of a 2002-2003 Kingsbury Fellowship. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Western Kentucky University. Before settling on a career in academia, he worked as a public relations writer, a sportswriter, a technical writer, a warehouseman, a Salvation Army bellringer, an enumerator for the U.S. Census Bureau, a typist, a data entry clerk, a file clerk, a fry cook, a cashier, a dishwasher, night manager of a convenience store, and a canopy construction worker. He is the editor/publisher of Steel Toe Books.