Liquor store replaced by hair salon, pharmacy
by high-end boutique—the little sloped
overpasses still bridge the Orange Grove exit.
I dangle my feet off the rails and blow
smoke rings at the South Pas Water Tower. Under the glare
of sodium vapor lights, the floating particulate
drywall, I can show you the dead end where
the continent concludes. Here, the war between
fathers and sons shrinks everyone down
to bad posture, even the black-eyed girls
practicing nooses with butcher’s twine
at midnight in the yard. My father might be out there,
summiting a spray-painted maple, or driving
towards this city in a red Mojave sandblast
having not seen himself for years.
I always wanted to leave California.
To exit the hunt he might be making
of downtown diners and fading public parks, well-lit places
of false hope that the middle of the night
might be holy. Now I’m wandering my diluted
Main Street of origin in hot blue December
as wildfires blacken the hills I once damned.
The dead end is called El Molino,
named after the corn mill swallowed
by a 19th Century flood. Austen almost died there
junior year because his brain started to heave
with the same fissure that killed
his father; he cradled his best friend’s
girlfriend’s head against his sternum, and whispered
the story of a pony that once dragged him
down the side of a cliff.