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A Parking Lot in West Houston by Monica Youn

A Parking Lot in West Houston

by Monica Youn

(from her 2003 book, Barter, from Gray Wolf Press)

Angels are unthinkable

in hot weather


except in some tropical locales, where

from time to time, the women catch one in their nets,


hang it dry, and fashion it into a lantern

that will burn forever on its own inexhaustible oils.


But here—shins smocked with heat rash,

the supersaturated air. We no longer believe


in energies pure enough not to carry heat,

nor in connections—the thought of someone


somewhere warming the air we breathe

that one degree more . . . .


In a packed pub during the World Cup final,

a bony redhead woman gripped my arm


too hard. I could see how a bloke might fancy you.

Like a child’s perfect outline in fast-melting snow,


her wet handprint on my skin, disappearing.

The crowd boiling over, a steam jet: Brrra-zil!


And Paris—a heroin addict

who put her hypodermic


to my throat: Je suis malade.

J’ai besoin de medicaments.


Grabbing her wrist, I saw

her forearm’s tight net sleeve of drying blood.


I don’t like to be touched.

I stand in this mammoth parking lot,


car doors open, letting the air conditioner

run for a while before getting in.


The heat presses down equally

everywhere. It wants to focus itself,


to vaporize something instantaneously,

efficiently—that shopping cart, maybe,


or that half-crushed brown-glass bottle—

but can’t quite. Asphalt softens in the sun.


Nothing’s detachable.

The silvery zigzag line


stitching the tarmac to the sky around the edges

is no breeze, just a trick of heat.


My splayed-out compact car half-sunk

in the tar pit of its own shadow—


strong-shouldered, straining

to lift its vestigial wings.

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