Owens Valley

Owens Valley

by Cody Gates

Strapped to this lucky red test

we make up           traditions
rituals

for the cattle crossings. You call a mattress
the wrong color, and tell your sister

that when you and I run away together

they won’t find us in Owens Valley.
they won’t find us.

I tried      writing
nothing

to tell you that some windows don’t work.
Instead this               store of maps
poem

wheels in the air, comes down
like the heat,
comes down
like my body,

my desert body, the words I’d have given you
had I written,

the words                   I would
you would

use to                         put you in
reject

this poem, that you would stand, unpuzzled,
uninjected, saying                   “I love him,
“I don’t know him,

though not when he climbs the starry skies
or when he wheels.”

Cody Gates was born in San Bernardino, Calif. and teaches writing at UC Berkeley. 

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