He arrives late, by train.
I pick him up at the station.
As soon as we get home,
he begins pulling books out of his bag,
and the conversation begins,
the same conversation we always have,
literature, what are you reading,
this is what I’m reading,
what do you think of Joyce?
He’s reading Portrait of the Artist,
but is already anxious to get to
Ulysses and Finnegan’s Wake.
He’s no casual reader, he likes
the dense stuff, the books that
make you think, that push you
out of your comfort zone.
He asks about a Saramago book
he saw last time he was here,
so we spend fifteen minutes
searching through three different
bookshelves in two different rooms
before we find it; he snatches it
from the shelf like it’s the last donut
in the box. The conversation moves
to Marquez and One Hundred Years of Solitude.
I couldn’t get through it, something
about magical realism that’s either
too magical or too real for me.
If you don’t like it, can I have it?
I hand it over and he’s delighted.
He’s frequents the thrift shops
scouring the shelves for literature.
Last time he found a Joseph Heller book,
and another Saramago. His shelves at
home are getting heavy.
The conversation always ends with a lament,
So many books, so many good books,
and we have so little time to read.
This business of literature sustains us,
and knits us together.
I am a clay tree losing her leaves.
I live in a cave, sand on my lips,
where is water? In the darkness
I am transparent, electrocuted
by the current of the sun, anticipating
movement, aware in my imagination
of the false portrayal in the mirage
of water. I bathe and swim
in the expansive lie, relax, be still,
caught in the act of admiration.
The destination is a buzz
in my ear it amplifies
as I move closer to sky.
Telephone pole currents like slimy fish
run from worm to worm, hooked
in the hot deep static of being.
Below the pavement with its deep
rough grooves of text wait for the El Camino
to walk its tires and read. The pen
abrupt draws stripes across the shirt
of crows that live on the wire,
that cough up crickets in their dreams,
roughing their throats. They birth
hot putrid signs that smell
my mild nature and beacon.
I take the Joshua tree home, and arrange
his branches like a bowl cut. I strangle
its durable trunk as I look for the crevice
where the lizard burns inside him. In the womb
of the tree he scales the waves of heat,
consumes the dust as he bakes. The little
climber melts into something new and flows
out of the tree. I hold him in my hand
as he undulates to the crest of my fingers
and becomes a little boy. I am barren
and cauterized. I feel my nerves
teeming on the edge of the dashboard
headed to Vegas.