My mother comes to visit me every few weeks. There’s nothing unusual about that, except she lives in a nursing home she isn’t supposed to leave. She wraps what used to be my father’s long winter coat over her shoulders, pays one of the nurses to sneak her out, and climbs into the back seat of an idling car that waits outside.
When people speak of my city’s river, they say: declined. What they mean is: dry. Only modern cities can survive on the promise of water. Early people settled just east of the river, on the then-fertile floodplain that offered easy access to water, mud, fish, grasses, all the necessary components to forge a life in the desert. In the summer, I imagine cool breezes.
Tucson lies in a valley between four mountain ranges, so each range becomes a landmark. A trained eye can decipher a way through the desert using these mountains alone, though this eye will also see the lines of cottonwood trees, will find where water runs silently underground—the Santa Cruz River (translation: “Holy Cross”) long buried under a bed of pummeled stone, sand, bits of mica.
When I was with the bartender,
I didn’t see a field of yellow flowers
when I closed my eyes.
There was no superbloom
the way there’d been with you,
and my heart didn’t burst open
when he put his mouth to my mouth.
Stand in front of the window of your kitchen refuge and prepare the following ingredients:
A welcoming, empty green glass.
A bottle of cold, fresh milk.
An orange and brown tin of Cadbury’s Cocoa.
The two large tablespoons locked in an embrace in the drawer (possibly because of your awful dishwashing skills), which have triggered your loneliness. Use them as they are; do not expend any emotion separating them.
I’ll never know the rupture and the gush,
the crown, or the crowning, the gummy grin
of the vulva, hair for teeth, the soft orb
forced forth without volition, the pungent room,
king mushroom wrenched from its mycelium.
First morning in Nueva York, in los EEUU, and Néstor in the kitchen was a stone his daughter rushed around like river water. Two years past her quinceañera, one more year of high school left, thirteen years since he last saw her. Néstor had kept running all the numbers in his head the whole way up to la Frontera, but here and now such compulsive calculations fell away, replaced finally by the actual, the reachable young woman those many years had yielded: Sara.
In the dark blue space between night and morning, Kendra is biking to work in Philadelphia when she sees a flatbed truck, carrying a single steel coil, fueling up at the all-night Sunoco station on Baltimore Avenue. The coil is a giant roll of duct tape, its silver layers wound so tight it looks solid, rising six feet tall, and secured with heavy chains. It sits exactly in the middle of the trailer, loaded eye-to-the-side, as if it could roll right down and off the flatbed. There are words, truckers’ words, for this particular way of hauling a coil, but Kendra can’t remember them. What she remembers is the weekend she rode through Tennessee in her father’s orange Freightliner Cascadia to deliver a coil just like this one. The memory is six years old, but she is always finding reasons for it.