We’re all standing against a fence
waiting for the bus to Olympia.
Between the black bars, spider webs gleam
in the morning sun.
An old man in an orange vest is plucking cigarette butts
from beside the curb with a metal claw.
A woman reaches into her Grocery Outlet bag
and takes out a package of Pop Tarts
and a juice box. She breaks the Pop Tart into pieces
and feeds them to her son, who seems old enough
and able to do so himself. She unwraps the plastic straw
from the side of the juice box, pierces the foil,
and holds it out to him so he can drink.
At this point I realize that I’m in the wrong line
and the bus is waiting at the end of the block.
I make it just in time, the last to board.
Behind the hotel
there is a powder blue dumpster
surrounded by a yellow brick wall.
At the edge of the parking lot
beneath the trees
is a picnic table
where the smokers can sit.
The front desk clerk,
a young Korean kid
face ravaged with acne, says
the cops come by sometimes
with someone who’s just been
released from prison,
get them a room for the night.
At dusk I see flashing lights in the carport,
a couple standing by a car with the hood propped,
the jagged pines dark against the sky.
The sound of the highway traffic rushing
behind the wall of evergreens.
A Gulf Station, a 76 station
A Quality inn, a Ramada Inn, a Super 8
A Shari’s and a Burger King
and a Denny’s, with a hostess named Chloe,
skinny with raccoon eyes
and a sad, sweet smile.
When your shift is over,
I’ll scooch over in my booth
and you can pick at my soggy fries
and lay your weary head
with its dishwater blond locks
against my shoulder
and tell me
A man pushes his kid in a stroller
along a busy street.
Closer to town, there’s Aztek Bowling
and Twister Donuts
and haunted pawn shops
and discount trophy stores
but out here there are no buildings
There’s nothing along this stretch of road
aside from a motel half a mile ahead
and a marijuana dispensary
half a mile back
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
is on TV. Our hearts
are rust and leather, clanging cages,
chains and rubber, steam and echoes.
The desert is full of sinkholes
that swallow first a horse
then a young girl.
I sit on the bed and nibble
my leftover croque-monsieur,
sip my gas station pinot grigio,
mute the commercials entreating you to join
class action lawsuits against the makers
of hernia mesh implants, imploring you
to seek compensation if you
or someone you love
has suffered injury or death
as a result
of a hernia mesh operation
On the bus ride home, I leaf through
a book of Indian tales. The light
of the overhead bulb trickles down
onto woodcuts of totem poles,
of sea monsters and wild women of the woods
and mountain goats with only one horn.
I read about a young man named Ice Ribs
who defeated a giant crab,
which then turned into thousands of tiny crabs
for the tribe to feast upon.
The light is weak and my eyes are bad
and I have to hold the book close to my face
to make out the words
and after a while I turn off the lamp
and stare out the window,
watching the distant lights zoom past
like sparks flashing in the dark eye
of a raven