A flat city and the mountains that rise up sharp and folded from its edge so you never get lost, though every time the streets are wider and fuller and the fields filled in. Here’s my elementary school. Here’s where I carried my tuba. Here’s the stream I drank from that tasted like the dead squirrel. We drive past the old house, past the stout pine you thought you could jump forever if you jumped it every day. It’s taller than the houses now; we imagine the persistence that would have given you that jumping genius. Your childhood friend, gray haired and quick to laugh, is out in his mother’s yard when we drive past. The rhythms of the neighborhood slip into your speech. You lean on your hybrid Civic, letting it idle in the middle of the street.
At night, the air smells like aspen leaves and stones or maybe dust. The mountains are iced with snow and it glows in the lights from the city, like search lights on clouds, or like ghosts. The geography has been written over with big houses and big cars, which here do not always mean money. I am not the little girl in pink smocking. I am the little girl in pink smocking. My grandma is gone, but here are her things and the smell of her things. I can hear her voice in my head and see her in everyone’s faces. Her sister has her gestures. Her baby pictures are my sister’s baby pictures only in black and white. I inherit her buttons, her dress form, her poetry book. Also, her beer straws. They do not have the summers in them: Golden Books and cigarette smoke and cut-off jeans, harsh jokes. They do not have fierceness or bitterness, intelligence or love.
This was the world. Desert mountains. This family. Myself, unknown and and small yet loved inside it. The highway west is the same highway, though we drive faster now. We buy, for the last time, a road trip bag of Hostess Donettes. Plastic donuts. Wax donuts. That smell that nothing else has. That smell that is leaving the world.