I remember the broken years you lived
in that rumpled land submarine
someone else had run aground at the park
behind the drive-in. The faded
green trim. The once upon a time
white, a wind-buffed shade of bone.
I remember how we would make up
stories of all the lives given to it, lost
to it, as if that dented trailer
were a ship night-mangled on a reef
of failed dreams, again and again,
over the years before you and your mom
pieced it together for your own doomed
voyage, which seemed destined
to leave you stranded there.
I remember the way your mom rigged
up that shower out back. Those three shivery
buckets. The way you squealed
from the cold, even in summertime.
I remember the way she would rinse
between double features. The glow
from the giant screen filtered
through the two small windows
of your home, brightening her shoulders
as if she did have stardust,
as if she might have been
a washed up, washed out, shooting star.
I remember all those movies.
The hollow sound of the tin roof
beneath our feet as if the world might
swallow us whole. The day
that hail storm pinned you
down for hours, as if trying
to break through, trying to break you.
I remember how you swore
you’d get out. You’d wash your hands
of that place, of that life.
Here it is all these years later,
someone else catching sight of you
from that not quite collapsed abode.
A girl, maybe, on the one-eared
rocking horse you left behind,
corralled in the stony yard. A mom,
or dad, or aunt, maybe, looking up
from a feeble kitchen chair
plunked by the new water hookup,
watching your massive face,
that long ago ache in your eyes
something you have turned to gold.
No one even noticing the rotted corner
of the big screen. Peeling layers of paint.
All they see is the tear you have trained
to run down your right cheek. As if
you have channeled some part of you
that never got out, that never truly got away.
by Lafayette Wattles