Orpheus Rides West/Letter to Eurydice from Deep inside the Teenage Wasteland Nate MaxsonAs a machine twisting symbiotic to the breath of Death Valley organ winds I hang there, briefly in suspension Synthesis of wheel and gleam squeals Before coming down on America’s incinerated hairline And a voice composed of tar and ripped umbrellas says, “If you will not see then you won’t And you’re trampling my siesta So what do you see?” And I (all pleather bravado) mock curtsy and say, “I am Orpheus, come to vaccinate the teenage wasteland My Kawasaki Pegasus 77 hungers for the fuel of titans pre-erasure Planted so far down I could only begin to hear them sing from the deepest parking garage” Long after and out of the subliminal range of any more elderly oracular tattletales and their interrogations I see you, and the throttle hums Simmered in orchards of gravedust as you trembled to snatch a lemon from the branches I’d always wanted to reach, and after the crash promised I would Or to leap, eyes clenched shut to a rattling of junkyarded landline telephones Nobody answers hello, they’d rather leave messages desperate in library books, leave those in gas station bathrooms: open me This has happened before but the first bite is always different, that’s how they took you with them On a gray horse, so there’s a certain irony to my silver prosthetic hand magnetizing to a telescope The boatman docked in a millennial sandy low tide knows how to play the flute too A closing trap Where the casinos and ambulances were brighter than our makers’ naked constellations Just to prove a point But it won’t last, the short circuit of power In the crunching of old newspapers and leaves under my boots Even the virus has an expiration date, though I’d like very much to believe in some immortal coil Hidden in my pockets with receipts for deals I’d rather forget The snakeoil fever came on slow Buzzsaw jumping incendiary knuckle-crack and you saw the blood jump blossoming in my eye Soaked to sweat and denim I drove all night through the desert with the lights off, helmet lost Hunting thirsty for a patch where the sand flattens to a mirror I sense you and I sense him (master and servant) Together beneath but trying to speak Blueprints for escape smuggled in my wanted-posters littering purgatory alongside the faces of children frozen on milk cartons When I run them over empty, I know it’s a joke Played on us by the land itself So small, my laughter And these attempts to catch gravity in amber to impress ambient gunfighters will never work Because in 100 years nobody will know who James Dean was (wasn’t he the president or something?) And the age of engines is riding, riding, riding toward burnouts in shopping malls The whole thing will fit in a pill they say Not for me, that much is obvious with my ear to the ground seeking a pulse If I knew the name of my death, I could stretch out in the space between now and it Maybe I’m doing just that but have forgotten a crucial ending detail The ache of a lazy bulldozer: what if you don’t want to leave? Down under the San Andreas faultline wandering the sunless olive groves Maybe I’m just jealous at anyone who finds their place in the underworld But I can’t or won’t bite into that, ripping through time fastforwarding till the garden wilts An amethyst haze lingers through this strange epoch of orange skies, warm bread and gasoline I run my fingers over the strings of the lyre like a loving mechanic But no sound comes out and I suspect that I’m traipsing through a silent film I have known sound before (a roaring) but perhaps it’s not half as good as it might be As it should be When the cities live in sunset and the crows fly in my wake I will sit up among them flirting oblivion with a whiskey bottle and the sirens But in this place of houseless screendoor tumbleweeds: you are my uncertain yesterday In that long gasp between rainy seasons, I pushed until I found a keyhole Because there’s a moment when the flashpoint forks, When you either keep hitting the chisel a little quieter each time hoping to make a crack in the foundation Or accept that everyone you love will have a salty aftertaste Because you are not the first to descend, and I am not the second There are others with faces that spiral in seashells pulled from green sea And just as you kissed the paleness of a stranger Who infected you with blue flame enough to make me squint and witness the egg begin to rot The truth is, these continents don’t shift for me and you There’s a river boiling in the center that does that They can dance without us We are the dehydrated (or at least, I am) It’s why I want to bring you back after such a long swim Nobody really grows up if they’re just surviving, even if your prophetic chokings say I ought to try Before I come igniting foolish out of the east cloaked in the yolk of stylish boogeymen I pick myself up, costume sticking to cacti like bits of trashbag Timing the rocket’s numbers And applying ash warpaint to superficial bruises It’s in the hissing nerve The splinter inside In a canyon where all motorcycles stall out (These aint wings!) So get ready Let your hair down Turn your lamp down low Spitting pomegranate seeds On the highways he has built Into sandstorms singing rumors of abandonment And the heaving skeletons of coalminers blinking at tarnished skies their smokebreaks had little real impact on I rev the dead engine one last time then dig my hands in the dirt
Nate Maxson was born last millennium in Cleveland, Ohio. He discovered poetry at a young age the way other people find religion or drugs and hasn’t looked back since. He is the author of several collections of poetry including “I Wished For A Serpent” and the forthcoming (October 2014) “The Age Of Jive”. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.