A Parking Lot in West Houston

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)
More Poems by Monica Youn