Imperial Valley (2003 – 2009)

When we talk about Calexico my father always wants to go / back he had everything / the biggest
house in town and, working from home all the time in the desert / when we talk about Calexico I
think about all the scars on my arms / the burn mark george gave me / that’s his grave now / I hear
he’s working at Wal-Mart/ but loss / as far as loss goes / is a little paper boat / zooming down the
gutter of my memory / I can’t follow it anymore / I let it go to let it go / to chase it would be / to
have been / left on the side of the road following the canal home / for how long? / the road sign /
the one between El Centro and Calexico said 75 miles / or am I crazy? / 74 miles / it took 45 minutes
by car one way / am I crazy? / I remember the cracks in the road at night / 76 miles / and all the
ghost stories that filled the time / ghosts / not people / resentment in the soil / from the slaughter
/ houses / farming / settling / in anthropology class I learned that the Imperial Valley produced
76% of all US produce / is that right? / or am I crazy / after the police left us alone george said / I
was stupid / holding the joint up like that / I never called my mother or Mike to come get me / I
was afraid of the hour between call          and rescue / El Centro was closer to Brawley but still an
hour away / 85 miles? an hour even if I’m crazy / the night I came back from Brawley for the last
time my friends cheered / it was / the warmest thing / it was / more open than arms / they cleared
the big leather chair for me / they hadn’t seen me sit in anything but a lap for 9 months / 9 months
always seemed so significant / I came back weak on my legs and they filled me with smoke / it was
all we had / we learned not to need anything else / and I didn’t until one day / I breathed out and
watched my smoke / drift away in a desert unprotected / by its landscape / by the people that took
it / when we talk about Calexico / my father remembers / everything he had / I remember /
sometimes the winds get up to 180 miles per hour / sometimes the air turns / into a mouth stripping
/ the paint off cars / faster than a car / can travel / from El Centro / to Brawley / every grain of sand
/ a ghost / taking / until / like smoke / I had to disappear /


Emma Stewart (he/they/she) is a queer, transmasc, mixed race poet whose work has appeared in Matchbox Magazine. He is currently an MFA candidate at Sarah Lawrence College. She enjoys sharing memes in excessive numbers with close friends and sending daily snapchats of his cat Tiger Lily to his parents, ignoring their demands for “pictures of your face, chango”. They can be found on twitter @theeyeteeth.

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