(This poem first appeared in Spark: A Creative Anthology, Volume V.  Reprinted with permission.)

as a boy on Earth
sometimes he’d ride along when Papa hauled freight
overnight from Los Angeles to Flagstaff

desert there a peculiar place
every car wants to hustle through
past silent armies of Joshua trees
that want to invade Barstow
but don’t have the heart, or legs

the sort of nothing-place that leaves a chill
in your bones, even when it’s near
100 degrees past sunset
where the glint of eyes along the interstate
could be a coyote or so much more

he’d always been terrified
of the truck breaking down out there
that the desert would swallow them up

but the stars—that made the trip worth it
Papa pointed out constellations as he drove

far from the city, the night sky:
an overturned ebony bowl studded with diamonds
atmospheric transports mere dashes of light
he knew then, as just a punk kid
that’s where he wanted to be

now
deep space reminds him of Barstow
nothing stretching on forever
ugly and pretty all at once
he creates his own constellations as
life support warnings drone on
engine dead, silence piercing

he looks for the glint of eyes
in the blackness of infinity

Zetetic separator

—Beth Cato is the author of The Clockwork Dagger (a 2015 finalist for the Locus Award for Best First Novel) and The Clockwork Crown from Harper Voyager. She previously appeared in Zetetic with her poem The Reason I Limp in September, 2015.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

2 Responses

  1. Roland Petrov
    at · Reply

    Very clever idea executed very well. I suppose if I was succumbing in outer space, I may very well think of Barstow!

  2. Anne
    at · Reply

    This is one of those poems I really wish I could have written myself. Awesome.

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