Blythe, California – Summer of 1981 – National Poetry Month – 7
Heat waves surrounded my ’62 Scout
with a flat tire in the parking lot. We had
less than a hundred miles to go to the mine
east of Joshua Tree. My cousin shook
his head at the spare’s sorry condition,
almost treadless, wire bristling along
the edges. Think it’ll make it, he asked?
I shrugged. It’ll last until it don’t.
We spread some cardboard on the gooey
asphalt that sucked at our boot soles.
Through gloves, our hands flinched
at the scalding metal surfaces. I jacked
the Scout’s bumper up. It looked
like one of those box traps kids set
to catch cats and squirrels. I pulled
the flat off and as I turned grab the bald
tire to slap it on the hub, the jack sunk
and leaned. My cousin jumped away
to the back of the scout, and pushed
against the tailgate, stopping the front
end from crashing down like a mastodon
in a tar pit. I threaded the lug nuts
fast. Back on the road, we laughed at lame
asses we knew in school when the tread
separated. The big vulcanized flap beat
the wheel well with each revolution. Thump
thump – like a heavy playing card in bicycle
spokes. It reminded me of a rabbit I’d hit.
How it got caught inside on the shock
tower and it kicked and thrashed,
not quite dead. The struggle to become
untrapped before it died. How long
did I wait, pulled over along side the road,
for it to die, so I could unwedge it
and toss it into the desert?