by Timothy Mathew Perez

I ride through and past cities where the color of its inhabitants change from brown to black back to brown to yellow to off-white to white. I ride down graffiti stained paths where there is nothing but the stink of industry—burning metal, flakes of rust, paint layered on top of paint like scar tissue. I ride through clouds of white flies, patches of amber glass, past stumps of used to be trees. I ride past homeless encampments, tent cities and their piles of waste: human and otherwise.

I ride past puckering smoke stacks blowing toxic kisses into the sky, past suspension bridges out rigged with pipelines passing gas from city to city. I pass steel girders stained and scrawled and I’m impressed with the mathematic ingenuity, the stoic performances, the near genius acts of engineering it takes to deface public property and I suddenly agree with the dropout rate.

I cross under the 91 and the abuelas and abuelos armed with staffs of PVC pipe, canes of wayward driftwood and plastic grocery bags collecting cans and bottles. I cross under the 105 startling wayward dogs, feral cats and pigeons that become sea fowl, I pass dusty horse trails dotted with droppings and vaqueros whistling, clicking their tongues against the roofs of dusty mouths putting their horses through their paces.

I pass the metro-line the thwack-thwack of its wheels echoing off the river bed’s walls. I think of the irony of the banner plastered to its side: WATCH FOR TRAINS, and I imagine witnesses looking at each other standing over the cooling bodies of a baby and her young mother who could be her sister saying, “They should’a watched for the train” and I remember the boy who tried to walk under a train that was crawling along the track whose pant leg caught on a rail tie and forty tons of box car crunched through his knee cap and how the boy crawled two and a half blocks over sharp granite stones to his uncle’s auto shop, the stump of his leg cauterized by the stone’s heat, and all I could think about was his leg out there under passing rail cars not able to ever cast a blurred shadow again.

I pass a man with no hands strumming a guitar, the chords in his throat pulled taut as the ones on his ax; I pass the nub of his arm gliding back and forth; it is callused and scaly-smooth like the belly of a desert snake; he is toothless as a whale, but his voice is wide as a river; it trickles into my ear and I have to shake him from my head like loose change. I look as the dry bed become full, I can smell open water, and I think about how water is the greatest of illusionist—no matter how still it looks it is constantly moving and when we move in it we assume it is against us, pushing in, enveloping us—forgetting it is us that is moving and that water just is.

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