We always wanted to live in California, anyway. That is
part of it—
          of being American: you want to get laid when you want
and be part of the crowd
in Cali. When they said that machines would replace us all
eventually, we

didn’t see the difference between a checklist maintained
to keep the cash
          flow alive like something worthy of being kept alive by
flesh or metal programmed down
to the micrometer. On the television, stocks were soaring.
I eyed your

guitar missing strings that I’d forgotten how to tune. You rolled
your eyes.
          I wish I did not throw those out. You are talking about the pack
of Marlboros that now whisper
to you from the grave. The dead talking seems within the possible
these days: the paper

said that as a Taurus you might find some spirituality in your job.
There is a certain
.            devotion to how the men tip. Like a scientist, you bring their
drinks slower each time to see
if they grow irate. But it’s always the same. They don’t come
for the beer

or the game. In California, we can change everything. But already
I see how you
          are still the same girl—freshly flunked out of VW and ready
to live dangerously, a dynamo
given over the world again, impregnable to the inherent danger
in each slow drag.


Austin Veldman is poet, editor, and songwriter from South Bend, Indiana. His poetry has recently appeared in Atlanta Review, Bateau, The Slag Review, Artifact Nouveau, and elsewhere. He is the founding editor of Twyckenham Notes, an online literary magazine that was the recipient of a 2020 Pushcart and a finalist for a Firecracker Award for Best Debut Magazine. He holds a BA and MA in English from Indiana University South Bend, where he is an Adjunct Professor of English teaching poetry. He works in management at an automotive recycling facility and lives in Northern Indiana with his wife and two sons.