The radio was playing Hank Williams when
they found him, steam hissing from the engine
like dancehall smoke beneath the freeway lights.
He got his first car at sixteen, took to driving west
from town, a hundred miles an hour across
coastal flatland straight into summer’s
five o’clock sun, tires beneath him skimming
a shimmer of watery silver, his laughter buffeted
by hot wind whipping through open windows
as field hands turned from the harvest
to shake their heads. Got pummeled
by a jealous rival once, skull bones split
beneath the left eye, laughed when the doctors said
stay on your back, give the bruising
time to ebb, let the skull bones mesh again, or risk
blindness. Sneaked out for a drink instead, shot
a game of pool when the ache beating
beneath narcotic numbness gave way
to nicotine’s whispered promise, bourbon’s
buttery warmth. Didn’t imagine he’d make it
to forty, riding a trajectory that felt pre-
determined—from his grandfather’s razor
to the burst of blood inside his father’s head—
final as a kiss of skull bones against carframe,
indifferent as the old oak tree biding its time
along a farmroad north of San Antonio,
and year’s later, his own son asleep
at the wheel, un-seatbelted like his father,
like his father perhaps dreaming something
gentler than the brunt of bumper against hardwood,
the instant of flight, the sudden darkening.
Li Sen, Long Xiaoying, Steven Schroeder, Wang Hao, and Zhang Xiaohong, Editors.
Virtual Artists Collective, 2008.