The city’s neon embers
stripe the asphalt’s blank page
where this story pens itself nightly;
where ghosts weave their oily hair
into his belt of ice,
dress him in pleated shadows
and lay him fetal
on the icy concrete—
the afterbirth of sirens glistening over him.
We drain our headlights
on his scraped forehead
and watch the December moon
two-step across his waxen eyes;
his mouth’s shallow pond—
a reflecting pool
where his sobs leak into my collar.
One more, just one more, he whispers,
as he thaws back into the shape of nihitstilí
bruised knees thorning against his chest.
We steal away,
our wheels moan
through sleet and ash.
Death places second, third,
and fourth behind us.
At home on the Reservation:
Father sifts dried cedar leaves
over glowing embers,
above cellphone light, awaits:
never went out,
watched a movie instead.
my speech has knives
that quiver at the ellipses
of neon Budweiser signs
blinking through the fogged windshield,
and I text:
I’ve only rescued a sliver of him,
he’s only twenty-five
and he smells like blood and piss,
his turquoise bracelet snatched for pawn,
by the same ghost who traded his jacket
for a robe of snow and ice,
before inviting him
back into the Caravan
for one more, just one more.
From Dissolve. Copyright © 2018 by Sherwin Bitsui. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.