Back to Issue Twelve.

SLAB CITY

BY LAURA ROMEYN

 

From the east deep they arrive
in the desert. Past the Salton Sea

and here, now into the better part
of the Sun Belt. They join up in trailers,

squatters in tents. Cover from weather
comes in tarps. The tarps fight for cover,

not from water but for shade.
Roosting in the gap where bulbs loop

a wooden frame, a man makes a stage
mounted on towers of two by fours.

He leans hard, he is aging brown and tan.
His name is Moth and he’s got six mouths

to think about. With several hundred
people hauled up, if you need something

you just ask the neighbors, he tells me.
Anything dragged in from elsewhere

is shared, fed, or built upon. In a steady
stream of burned-out RV’s and buses,

in the wreckage of former homes
too ruined to use even for their parts,

he takes me to the junked bus.
It gives me the shade. It gives me

someone to talk to while sitting.
Everyone talking about East Jesus

in the middle of nowhere, so I believe
without seeing. It rained once

they say, not a flood, but a bucketing.
I think of how my body takes on water,

how my body leaks it out and off.
How I’ll reach for a glass when I need it,

when I want it. Moth motions to the van
with its tires gone soft from the desert.

The radiator bakes in its shut down black.
He tells me how sand pulls in the cars,

how people wade around inside of it.
Like high-water for desert knees.

A fishing rod rattles on the bare wall.
Moth’s kid skirts the sand with a broom.

We haven’t run away he says,
we’ve run to.

 

 

Romeyn 12

Laura Romeyn is a 2015-2017 Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in AGNI, Crazyhorse, Devil’s Lake, Ninth Letter, and Passages North. This summer she will be a Work-Study Scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.