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Trust Fund

                                    Betsy Brown

Maybe he was your boyfriend.
Maybe you knew how far
the desert stretched,
crowded foothills
and crooked javelina tracks.
You could see it in dreams:
lightning striking saguaros,
the snails and olives and sand,
sheets of rain, a filthy sedan
with a leaky gas tank.
You might drive for days,
the dream could steer you north,
past canyons and stray dogs,
up to the timber line,
across the Continental Divide.
Mule tracks and amnesia.
He wasn’t your boyfriend
I think he moved to Alaska,
maybe even Tokyo.
I got some hang up calls
that summer. Monsoons.
People wore sandals,
they licked popsicles.
We didn’t have cell phones.
We didn’t even have seatbelts.
Maybe I couldn’t say no.
But that didn’t mean
there was nothing I could do.
People don’t go barefoot
for long in Tucson, Arizona.
Sometimes you have to run
even when it’s pounding,
even when the highway’s empty.
It might take years
to get out of town.
I didn’t drive north
because he hit me.
I did it for love.

Maybe it kept something whole.
I was a kid who knew how
to do cartwheels.
I know the molten smell
of asphalt, the oil drip
on concrete.
You don’t have to spend
a lot of time staring
at the billboards
of Speedway Boulevard
to believe in shadows.
You don’t have to check
the rearview mirror
to see what you look like now.
Maybe that time was some strange
back-flipped school
where only the opposite was true:
You learned it was you.
You learned it was nothing.
You learned how to fight dirty.
These lessons survive
through tight generations.
When you start to flunk out,
you graduate.
The road radiates oases.
At first, you can’t even feel
when you’re climbing.
The sun sets faster
at seven thousand feet.
The cold seeps in, it colors
the grey vinyl dashboard,
its cover of dusty rugs,
it colors the windshield
through rock chips and webs,
through the heat of the moments
when we simply walk away,
the memories of childhoods
and all their unlocked doors,
the sweep of bar fights and pitchers,
fumbled gas caps, and kitchens.
The sins of the mothers.

I would take out five dollars
at the bank machine then.
There were shirts sewed by hand,
and all my books fit on the floor
of the back seat.
It really wasn’t my fault.
It never will be.
Maybe he was my boyfriend.
I can admit it.
Over the pass, it gets slick
and dark, and the curves
are sharp under the moon.
The things I saved
are all the things I tossed.
I don’t have to forget.
I don’t have to get even.

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