There were no road rails.
I remember no road rails and the death depth off the cliffs
we motored along.
I remember speed in a parched Chevy clunker that could not have sped,
and bench seats, and no buckles, and bare thighs peeling off faux leather
at every hairpin. Every elevated canyon mile was a feat
but a breath of less slickened air too, less cog and fume —
a winding away from
the wavering, sea-leg steam off blinding sidewalks,
infinite sidewalks and other shoeless kids
kicking rusted palm leaves outside infinite apartment complexes. Away from
of the valley of concrete corners, of
no evidence of valley besides boulders stacked in the distance of every vista.
The driver was a stranger, was my mother after my whole life had passed
with stranger after stranger,
was my mother after seven years, and me at seven years
with her driving that snuff-colored Nova from her blinding valley not a valley —
through Laurel, Topanga, Malibu
canyons all the way to some fantastic, to her beloved
blue — eucalyptus
choking local growth the whole trek. And the cooling air as we
and the jolt of a castle, The Castle,
in a distant crook of a range that hid the slate of the ocean,
made me want to stop moving
but not stop here. I remember hoping
to find hermit crabs the size of the mole on my right side chin.
And if I tethered them to a stick they’d line up by mass and trade shells, find homes
that fit. And there’d be one left without, one torn out. A book said
a scientist leaned into wet sand, watched a torn crab die
in the beak of a gull. I can’t remember if I saw that death or read it.
watching a wrong castle tucked into a wrong mountain notch on the chin of the sky,
like the hermit mole on my chin
if my face were the sky. “It’s a beauty mark,”
my mother had said, “Don’t pick at it.” I eyed that smoking stranger at the wheel
and dug my nail in
as the Pacific swelled into view that first time.