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Miles Waggener


     Maricopa, Arizona 1976

Huevos rancheros, hash browns, shotguns
in the truck, the promise of doves
spilled across alfalfa fields. I know why
they called it Headquarters and
why we stopped there and stayed. The bar
early in the morning was full of cowpokish truckers
and drifters, among them my father, there were
scorpions in resin for sale, mints
beneath the glass at the register, too many
sweaters for a would-be-cold-day-of no
hunting in the desert, and the bathroom
light and latch never worked. As I sat there
in the dark, my mother guarding the door
was angry at me, at my father, at the smoke.
But these were the things we could have in the world
and they had them there.


Elegiac Buckshot

     in memory of Chad Cobb

Taquerías against the cracked embankments
of Phoenix, a purer phosphorescence, an insect crushed
in its colony, neon spills down the slick
shale, the butcher paper patter of condensation,
xanthic and half-eaten chicken in a drive-thru liquor store.
When the engine idles out, we’re still holding
our breaths. Morning through a smeared pane, fires
all day in the corner of the eye, we who love you
move about the glassless ribs of a greenhouse with
nothing anybody wants. There is so much farther
to fall from the tower we’ve made for each other,
and for you, and my first dreams of you,
of failing eyesight, where a sentence in your handwriting
assumes the iridescence of a grackle or a horsefly, end
in the smell of water evaporating on concrete
when I wake. A broken water main
splashes out like the Pentateuch. Tailed things
wriggle or sun themselves on stucco, your news
corkscrewing toward the drain at my feet.
Find a new strategy for remembering
you, who are reduced to profile, whose eyes
turn away from us, we among the surrogates that
strangers become in your absence. Late afternoon
is an exit wound and one of the hardest to bare,
and you would ask me why is that?
Earth floats across the city's slab of halogen.
When we dialed your number the hospice nurse asked
for our first and last names, and we knew.


Sky Harbor

Our nettled craft of exits
    metal's sheen lost
in fading southern ranges, our devotion
    to iron fillings drawn from the dirt, jets
tilt in the sunlight.
    Travelers, acolytes caned en masse
amid the false shimmer of origin, of mirror,
    wince at the quivering patter
of circles widening on dusty parcels and cinderblocks,
    and there's a faint guttering at the end of roads
a flare on the other side. How else to bring what won't.
    come to us on its own
a bit closer?
    An approximation's fist in the skull, heat, a pulse
drawn out into vacant shoeshine grottoes,
    into the mouths of engines, but promise
of such un-gregarious surprises
    brought us here together
where the sun pulls like a razor in the nurse's hand--
    no one look at it --
fire-lit, concussive, suggestive of the pivot nd fall
    of the great foot.
So ripples splay
    as drinking lips
break the surface,
    kilter igniting then dampening
an eye behind a lid,
    a toy eight balls' future.
And snared and capering on a wire,
    there's a yellow balloon,
smiley face on both sides, head
    turning not-me-not-me-not-
until an engine's wake snaps it gone.
    Is the desert, sweet tourniquet and wound below us,
also an echo? How the drowning
    must forget
what they dive after.
    As with deep water, the desert is
for the forgetful, for the prize -- for those who
    lose their grip.
The dove after. Two sparrows     
    are trapped in the crowded terminal -- a little girl
looks up.