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Bella Zhou

Nomadland or: The Great American Travesty

                        Golden Shovel after Albert Saijo


Too many A&Ws sink bloodshot neon into the growl                               of dark, open for no one. I can sit here all night & watch the

soda fizzle out as roads boil in Nevada, leaving a thin thread                            of roadkill. I can be that martyr. Coke & bones, country

my ass. Tomorrow I can be in Utah. From the pasty bungalow,                          a man stumbles into the street, shaking, and shouts: is

I shot? The scraggly line of trees, balding like a middle-aged                               father. He receives no response. All the freeways blond

with lipstick smears, kissing them is cold, stale, cheap. But I can                          go anywhere on them; they forget my name, face and

every other Ford climbing their sallow thighs. I can melt. I can be                     American air, which hangs in my throat, hoarse & flat

& just out of reach. I can wage American war & bleed American                   blood. I can mistake a deer’s treelike, sprawled limbs for

a pistol, for the silent mammal heads on Pa’s wall. My head is gentle                mockery. (Much like the country, naked, leering, fifty

dirty-minded cops & one vain hunter.) Pa said get to heaven. I instead                    went to school & got high in the bathroom, miles

away from that year’s dandelion-blown summer, slicking our bodies                  & spreading us against the light. He almost couldn’t

believe I had grown into the bullet shell of a man. He was at the back          door, on his knees saying let me in, let me in. & to think

that for two gas stations I was his princess, in the backseat of a white           Subaru, the horizon fading. What I mean to say most of

the time is that this country is a whole lotta nothing. Nothing in coat               pockets, eye sockets, baseball fields, bibles. Anything

was nothing. I can spin these streets into gold, run along their steep                    jawlines & aching chests, I can be such freedom. But

no one will remember, the freeways swerve back & erase the dent             of my body, shape of steeples in the dawn. I can tell you that

I am tired of writing poems that are fed to birds. Texting Mom, he came in      through the back today & died. Texting again, whore,

f u. Her text bubble disappears, becoming nothing. His body unwound                      into roads, ropes. I leave the convenience store in

an unknown town, it is 3 A.M., street signs melt into pools by my feet,               a lost deer, frantic, turns its head to gaze at Chicago,

& I duck in bony pigeons and the corpses of trees. My skin bursts into gusts    of gunpowder. The freeways are gone, I realize. And

I could have been Mister America on Staten Island, the torch-fire climbing                         up my thigh. Instead, tonight I will be the

nothing, clasping hands hollow with heartbroken grandeur, muttering amen,   amen as I hear something thud upstairs & see a tub

full of blood, I am now sixteen, fatherless, doe-eyed, king of the high school                    bathroom. There is nothing I can dream of.

The entire world is someone else’s. Stay, I’m on my knees, all the dirt dug                                                  out. Mind carved into oysters.

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