I’ll never forget how you snapped hood ornaments off the prows of parked Buicks
with the hand of a rose thief, well versed in the science of tender decapitation.
You relished each new addition to your collection—faceless angels, art deco swans,
aerodynamic abstractions, seductively streamlined stags leaping head-on
into headlights—packed airtight in zip-lock bags & buried behind a paddle cactus
so overgrown it covered the name of the faux adobe apartment building
where we lived. Two years older, you learned to drive the viridian Oldsmobile
your father left to rust. Spark plugs letting sleep-corroded tongues loll
for the practiced cameo of your car keys, the ignition switch panting like a stray dog
with a coat of raw sparks. It was the summer we had the same recurring dream—
a mudslide pummeled the city, turning up bones from eons into the future,
tires spinning out on wet cement. You were found unconscious in a motel room
somewhere in the sticks, the vacancy sign’s neon-tangerine pulse outbeating
the night’s untimed throb. The music of rats burrowing in boots barely discernable
over the high-pitched silence of a white sheet pulled taut. Albuquerque’s
leprous heat turned the chrome of every seatbelt buckle a dull pewter.
The rueful pawns of youth’s restitution ran unapologetic fingers along your heart’s
double blade. The throaty exhale of a syringe’s beveled eye. At the funeral, your
friends from those years locked themselves in a windowless room, ripe ticks
clung like goatheads to their socks. Did they shoot up in your honor? Did they
sit in a circle whispering in the language of ghosts? Thin voices unfurling like
ribbons of pollen. Outside, the bleached stucco of southwestern cloudscapes—stunned
wasps dragging hips through spilled dashboard coffee—the bicycle chain steering wheel
too hot to touch. Vultures like flecks of ash caught in the sun’s blonde eyelashes.