Wesley Rothman

At what speed is the trigger squeezed?

Is the frequency even? The number of lives

taken is either even or odd. It’s possible

to come up in a place of rift untorn, be soft-

handed in a rough neighborhood, I know.

On the news, anchors straightly announce

fear grips the Southland, a land of Southness,

which is to be under something top heavy,

reside beneath what is plain. And it’s common

to be lullabied by sirens. It’s stonecold

to know the difference between choppers

and a generator, to live beneath the flight path

of Icarus. There are days I crave the grey

of gravel-riddled asphalt, days I want the hot

of blacktop, the soot on my fingertips,

something to wash off or touch the world

with. A car fire keeps the block lit, warms

the desert’s cool. After all, this city

is a desert. What desert city is made

of angels? Some days I ache for the streaks

of Mandarin, the paint of tags chiseled

by gunshot, new language etched on freeways

and overpasses near the train yard — the city’s

Rosetta stone. I am of the Southland, born

from a desert and sent into frozen exile,

left to memory, echoes of echoes echoing.

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