When the lava dome was over, like history,
after Mount St. Helens and Cougar Mountain
were conquered, after there had been streams
and lost in the woods, I got strep throat, like a tool,
had to take the Greyhound bus back
to responsibility and straight up-and-down A’s.
Fever dream in the front seat (“Sit in the front,
next to the driver.”), the woman who asked
if I was okay, touched my forehead, said,
I looked like her family. Her family,
a Pacific Northwest tribe. And I wasn’t.
But she insisted. And hours later she went on,
my body slumped over an old backpack,
my throat blistered with give-up.
The kind of give-up you get when you’re 19
and think it’s still an option. Like, just stopping
is an option. She was saying something about magic
and how sometimes you just get a sense
of things, and I thought that was true.
The first boy I loved; I met him in the back
of a Roundtable Pizza where he was making
things disappear for a whole room of us
twelve year-olds, and he was made of magic
and carried fake roses and real rabbits
and I loved him for real, for real, for real.
She talked about how my tribe, in Mexico,
in Aztlan, was also a part of her tribe,
from the same coast, the same ground, she knew
when I got on the bus that I was her people.
She gave me a grape soda because I couldn’t talk,
and told me to look at the trees and how,
didn’t I feel like I had known them forever, and how
I probably had, and how people had been
here before too. I sipped my grape soda
and for miles of interstate I was so full
of love that for a minute, I forgot who I loved
most, as if I had lost the hierarchy.
It scared me. Made the whole world seem too
unorganized. I needed rank and file, a system of
loving. This person is number one, a fake rose,
a top hat. She put her hand on my forehead again.
My fever was breaking. A soldier got on, and
someone said, “we’d get there faster if we didn’t
keep stopping.” A grove of trees. A grove of homes.
And I couldn’t tell who I was wishing well, or
even if it mattered. So I said, “I'll miss you,”
to the window’s nothing and didn’t care
if it said it back.