Readings in Contemporary Poetry

August Kleinzahler


Outside the cantina

with you in the backseat of a ruined DeSoto,

torn upholstery, vinyl mange

and the big old radio's static frying

what could only be a Dixie Cups tune.

Things had gone terribly bad,

and Slim, who drove us the whole long way

through chaparral and dust,

was in there now, with them,

asking for the money he had no right to,

had no right to even ten years back

when the fire was, or so he says.

They nearly killed him then,

the fool, the braggart, the Suicide Kid,

just itching after a good old-timey

late afternoon cowboy send-off,

blood and gold and glinting side arms,

with us stuck back there yet, hove-to

in the backseat like two kids

waiting for Dad.

	             When you touched me,

the lightest of touches, the most unforeseen,

carelessly along the wrist.

I nearly came unglued.

I mean, I knew about Ramone,

that lovely boy - and for so long,

the two of you.  I cherish that photo still,

your white tam-o'-shanter, his red TransAm.

Then I became water.

Then, from what had once been my chest,

a plant made of light effloresced.

Thus, our adventure began, our slow-motion

free-fall through the vapors and oils.

I stammered at your white flesh.

			        And that,

that's when the shooting began.

© 1996