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Elegy with Green Oldsmobile – Joseph Mulholland

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.