A Parking Lot in West Houston

By Monica Youn Monica Youn
Angels are unthinkable
in hot weather
except in some tropical locales, where
from time to time, the women catch one in their nets,
hang it dry, and fashion it into a lantern
that will burn forever on its own inexhaustible oils.
But here—shins smocked with heat rash,
the supersaturated air. We no longer believe
in energies pure enough not to carry heat,
nor in connections—the thought of someone
somewhere warming the air we breathe
that one degree more . . . .
In a packed pub during the World Cup final,
a bony redhead woman gripped my arm
too hard. I could see how a bloke might fancy you.
Like a child’s perfect outline in fast-melting snow,
her wet handprint on my skin, disappearing.
The crowd boiling over, a steam jet: Brrra-zil!
And Paris—a heroin addict
who put her hypodermic
to my throat: Je suis malade.
J’ai besoin de medicaments.
Grabbing her wrist, I saw
her forearm’s tight net sleeve of drying blood.
I don’t like to be touched.
I stand in this mammoth parking lot,
car doors open, letting the air conditioner
run for a while before getting in.
The heat presses down equally
everywhere. It wants to focus itself,
to vaporize something instantaneously,
efficiently—that shopping cart, maybe,
or that half-crushed brown-glass bottle—
but can’t quite. Asphalt softens in the sun.
Nothing’s detachable.
The silvery zigzag line
stitching the tarmac to the sky around the edges
is no breeze, just a trick of heat.
My splayed-out compact car half-sunk
in the tar pit of its own shadow—
strong-shouldered, straining
to lift its vestigial wings.

Monica Youn, “A Parking Lot in West Houston” from Barter. Copyright © 2003 by Monica Youn. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org

Source: Barter (Graywolf Press, 2003)

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Poet Monica Youn

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Nature, Summer, Weather, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

 Monica  Youn


Monica Youn is the author of Barter (Graywolf Press, 2003) and Ignatz (Four Way Books, 2010), which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including the New Yorker, the Paris Review, and the New York Times Magazine, and she has been awarded fellowships from the Library of Congress and Stanford University, among other awards. A former lawyer, she now teaches . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Summer, Weather, Social Commentaries, Popular Culture, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Poetic Terms Couplet, Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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