On the Road to Irapuato
I wake carsick, my family singing along to Juanes’
“La camisa negra”, and gazing up at el Cerro de Chipinque,
the dripdrop mountain range that hides Monterrey.
We are a highway zoom. Snakes along the gravel.
Armadillos patching potholes. Ahead, on the horizon,
men in large bulletproof vests have their knees down
on a man’s neck—his mouth swallowing what seems
like an entire desert’s worth of dirt. My mother keeps driving.
As we approach the checkpoint, my father drills us again:
don’t be afraid, you are American citizens. A soldier orders us
to stop the car. He escorts my father beyond the military
caravan, poses him questions that another will use
in an interrogation of my mother. All my brother
and I can do is sit as they tear apart our bags, scavenging
for a hint of contraband. We, schoolboys, worry only for
our PlayStation—our cooperative prayer. We still have
our seatbelts on. We don’t remember the last time
we weren’t soaked in sweat. But they find nothing of interest.
A soldier waves his rifle and my parents pile back into our
Ford Expedition, which feels smaller now. My mother
keeps driving. When we reach the hotel, an hour
later, we take turns showering—the four of us shivering
despite the heat: starving axolotls in bath water. By the time
a man delivers us something posing as pizza, only my brother
and I remain awake, entranced by late night soccer’s steady pulse.
The television’s quiet embers, like us, gasp [¡golazo!]
in the wake of precise shooting. My parents approximate rest,
sleeping, their snores resounding past the room’s chill and turquoise,
dreaming of our return trip home—which, for now,
requires arid obedience to the rule of the desert.
On the back road near my house,
there’s a possum gashed and thick with the quiet
only the dead know. I mimic its splayed performance
and get burnt laying in the July-soaked street
as I look at the dots of blood trailing this accident.
Behold this creature fading into the pavement,
the sun already making it shadow. Memorize
its composition, the pointillism of its body. Torn clean
through, how the quick brushstroke of alarm must have
swung through its belly when some tire collided with
the black and white fur protecting pink feet—: guts now
effigy for a gust of wind. Yes, the strawberry paint flooding
the asphalt still counts as blood but time dwindles
it down until it drains, and rains, until it fills my cup, my mouth.
In my dream, I give you a car to cross
that lonely little kiss of a border.
I brush your name on the fence
built to keep you out; illuminate
something like a scar on its metal canvas.
Yes, beneath this grid of second sight,
I meddle with your crossing,
label it one of our familial geneses.
Yes, let me guide you—
if only in the dream,
if only to see you arrive—home.
Genesis and a Lullaby
Stumbling, heavy with drink, but home for the night, you’ve wandered
into my bedroom not to sing me asleep but to whisper my name
and though awake, I don’t respond, and as my father, you take silence
as permission: sit on my bed’s edge, letting your face slip in and out
of your hands, which, an hour ago, burdened themselves with the labor
of blessings—first me, then my brother. What keeps you from crossing
into any other lonely darkness of this house? Through the dim of the night,
through the shadow of my squinting, your mouth moves. Tells me a story.
We lost her, my eldest sister, when I was five. You don’t say how she was lost.
Instead, you tell me your father followed, not two years later.
You ask if I remember the time we, the four of us, went to Mexico
and met their grave niches, high on a wall of marble. Though awake,
I don’t respond. Though I do recall it: seeing their etched names, which start
with the same letter as my own, so I hear the first vowel of an elegy
when you call me to you. You placed flowers into her vase, a Corona Familiar
onto his small altar. But we’re home now. So I don’t say anything, don’t reach
across the chasm of silence into tenderness. I don’t say: take my hand. I don’t
break this moment: this bedside story: my eyes nearly closed, acting asleep.
Photograph of Austin Araujo by Anna Powell Teeter.