Above the River – National Poetry Month – 8

Above the River

My old Scout shudders to a stop
in the emergency lane. My cousin
and I stand with the hood up,
on the breaks. The highway a mirage
tributary shimmering down to the river.
Cars and semis disappear into the heat
waves, swallowed until they emerge
on the bridge where the road sheds
the light and the illusion of water.

The throaty roar of big block jet boats,
thick with glitter paint, rumble.
I burn my hand on the exhaust manifold,
checking the plug wires. The boats
tow water skiers on the river. Rooster
tails of water sluice the sky and fall
like gold dust in the high sun. The wires
are tight. I pop the air cleaner and check
the fuel flow. We can hear women.
At that distance we see only swatches

of color on figures, like some blurry peep show
I find the coil wire broken. I strip the insulation,
and wrap the copper strands around the post
and tighten it down. Sweat soaked we drink

from canteens. Our hands burnt and calloused.
Our clothes smudged with grease and oil
with the labor of keeping the Scout running
from Phoenix to this frontier. It’d been a chore.

I once stood on the side of a road, eyes red
from dirt, oil, and the dust of brake pads
that might make me blind one day, screaming
into the empty desert. A rage like the sun,
if you’re in it too long it’ll kill you. Cousin,
I say, you think things’ll get any easier on us?

He says, sure, winter’s a few months off.
Down at the river, we wash our dirt away.

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