There they are—our fears, animated. Highway 90’s wide shoulder, into it, we cry. The scary thing about fear is that it hovers, remains stationary as it pulses on & off. A roadside sign here says Crunch instead of Church, despite the persistent steeple, & like the sun, everything has slowed to a crawl in West Texas except in the way we name things: will-o’-the-wisp, bad hombre, small fires. In the way language fails at documenting our corruptions, the lights appear as a lesson in amplitude. Who moved the backbone of Texas? Was it the Spanish, or was it the U.S.? Did Mexico have a say? Who carved Fuck this into the desk I used in junior high school history class? I’d love to meet them, ask them why their crude artwork looked so much like an abandoned asylum wall. Saltwater seeped into the bones of Galveston trees, killed 40,000 of them, & they’re calling it an ecological disaster. I want to know what this feeling is in my bones, if it’s saltwater killing me, or if it’s something else, & if this something else has a name that lessens its intensity like domestic violence. How he moved my smile as if it were a Texas backbone. Ask me if I had a say in which rivers separated one state from another. The town where my mother was born, which had the largest sulfur deposits, now depleted & left ghost. The Lone Star has always gambled on disorientation, & it usually wins.
I woke up with another migraine today because I suppose I should be in love. Did you know that the freeways begin with dirt packed on top of itself? Then goes the asphalt, then the concrete, then the little symbol of patriotism. The roaches I leave behind jump into unsuspecting handbags, & naked, I examine my body for places to pick it apart. I float above the roses the Mexican landscapers plant like the woman in the Chagall painting looking for a way out of his dream. Up, the only exit. I discipline Texas, just like our forefathers would have wanted, stealing the gallop from a horse while I strangle it with a lasso. How much my dad is a mirror to those men on bulldozers making a city for us, but somehow, he defied gravity by holding spinning police sirens in his hands like drunken planets. Alarm bells went off, the white officer says. My grandfather left a couple of his fingers in Normandy, & I have the telegram that officially discharged him framed in gold because I like tragedies still & where I can see them.
Iliana Rocha earned her PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in the Best New Poets 2014 anthology, as well as The Nation, RHINO, Blackbird, and West Branch. Karankawa, her debut collection, won the 2014 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and is available through the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma and lives with her three chihuahuas Nilla, Beans, and Migo.