what are poems? Are they guided tours through the landscape of a troubled mind?

On the Persistence of Vision

The passengers will not stop singing Clapton’s “Cocaine”.
Outside, desert surges: the brightness deafening, a constant
noise boiling over. I close my eyes. It’s still there. The trees

disappear into it. The tour guide loudspeakers about graves,
about rituals and haircare. I raise my hand and he asks us
to save all our questions for the end. He has a voice made

for radio. I open the cooler and take out the heart, invite it
to watch the scenery with me. The heart is cold and lopsided,
soggy in my hands. Reflective coating on the window makes

it hard to see. I try to point out features the heart will like —
cacti in the shape of seated pigs, for example. The driver asks
if we can stop at a bar, because he feels a tequila coming on.

The woman in the seat ahead begs her daughter, give me
a kiss
, her voice pitched like Betty Boop. Her daughter
blinks, looks away and carefully parts the bangs of her black

wig. I carve a word into my seat with a scalpel. I just want to be
needed. But I don’t have any money, someone says somewhere.
The guide yells, Kathy, keeps telling Kathy to calm back down.

He might be looking at me. The man next to me puts his hand
on my shoulder, shows me the bald scars he doesn’t normally
reveal to women at work. You’re a disappointment to your mother,

he whispers as he hooks his fingers through my fishnet stockings,
down low, so no one can see. From its corner near my armrest,
the heart stares at the ceiling. Sometimes the Virgin flashes by

on a wall, looking down, her hands clasped, the light around her
expressed by bright yellow spikes. At the rest stop, an old man
in a smeared overcoat stumbles and drones one low note over

and over. My new friend leans in to tell me: Take a picture!
Someone might ask if you’ve ever been anywhere,
and you can show them: I’ve been here.


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