It’s time, Tiger, to pedal your little boy car
out of home movies, squeaking past the white
wands of papers rolled on driveways in the dark
and your Pop Warner pick-6 for the Merchants Bank Bucks,
past your bus before dawn in the spooky school lot,
past the smell of girls’ shampoo, blue
ribbons and zippers and index cards, vacation
boulders in Albuquerque against your rickety back
and that day you stripped in the field behind the trailer
at the edge of woods. If it mattered,
it doesn’t. If it could have changed you in the world,
it didn’t. Memory creases useless salt in mixed-up doodles
like that story you read in which Ancient Greece is back
on Earth, the Great War rages and North America is a plain of glass.
Even classic rock has abandoned the convention center.
Captain Kirk still avoids his fans. Fluorescence,
a desiccant, lit your notes in unfamiliar classrooms, polished
white tile skittered with green, flecks the color of Soyuz,
hallways, like tomorrows, made beautiful by being empty.
More than the logic of your winning speeches, your seating charts
for the high-school U.N., your tournament trophies and plans
for the College of Electors, more than the slip-covered presidents
and all those tired teachers drinking coffee and Mylanta, remain
the strange sufficiencies of these objects resigned in time :
the first gray hair in seventh grade and the blue-and-gold anthology :
now all of them and Auden’s correction to Shelley, the torrent
of today’s dry creek bottom. You miss your plastic Tri-corder, the
sorghum and soybeans, frontage-road pink house, a strip-mall Karma.
Your red pedal-car broke down years ago. Hot sand fills your Converse
–the white-red cliff ahead a trunkless thigh in stone,
your pick-up how many miles back?
Pinyon, juniper, sage–not the only shadows desert knows
–all travelers in each annihilated place, each
dry creek that leads us past the moving, stupid monuments
in a capital beset with marble. Tell the half-
light, noon, half-light, moon. Tell slope and dessication
in orders of magnitude. Flycatcher, willow and vermillion, axles
broken in a grove and degrees, hasten the histories
of vista rest-stop plaques to the first American names,
one of which was her finger sliding a button through a slit.
Failed shade, failed boosts, failed kiss-and-tell, failed narcissism,
friend prescience, unknown colleagues of the distant chamber
–You could call the roll but instead you build this anachron from scrap again,
obscure schematics scratched in bloody angles on your skin.
No one cares. What is there to legislate now
that you check the Real Age, which is
47, ballots rusting in the garages of code geeks
and student-council treasurers? There is
a cottonwood. Before that,
a prior tree, and after that,
an after tree.
Christopher Cokinos is the author, most recently, of Bodies, of the Holocene and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide. He has poems recent or forthcoming in Borderlands, Front Porch, GeoHumanities, Orion, TYPO and Ecotone, among other places. In Tucson, he directs the creative-writing program at the University of Arizona. In Logan Canyon, Utah, he reads books instead of e-mails. He is at work on a new nonfiction project tentatively titled Re-Civilization: Six Heresies to Keep a Planet Running. His poetry collections The Underneath and The Archive of Obsolete Futures are circulating.