The Tanks || Melissa Austin

It’s north a bit, the mountains
brown and pink behind it. The dirt,
the scrub brush, all things dry and ready, smell
like tinder. Like an unlit match. Things
creak out here that you can’t
see. Call out across sun waves and
scratching claws. The desert
is a place to be forgotten. There are

kittens and old fireworks
in the barn. Out back there are car parts,
an old corral, a gutted ambulance. The ranch is a monument to “How ‘bout this?” But
it’s all right. It’s easier to be unembarrassed when your
obsession has plenty of room
to stretch its legs. When you can do
the Time Warp beneath the barn light with
only the moths, and the swooping,
hungry barn swallows as witnesses.

At the closest shop, which is
miles away, on roads of actual blacktop,
the cashier never looks up. I can buy
aguas frescas by the gallon. Cartons of
cigarettes and packages of hot dogs. And
nothing else.

It is so quiet out here except for
the howling. And those creaks. There’s

gas in that shitty Yamaha dirt bike, with
the rifle mounted on the handlebars. I could
ride it into the sunset. Or just
round and round in circles
right in front of the house, kicking up dirt until
I’m dizzy and can’t see, and no one
would be there to stop me.

This was originally published in Spring 2018 edition of The Helix.

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