Untouchable on a Summer Day in Baton Rouge
You are a bloodshot remora, and we
cut quick from your tether hook stare.
The red light your cue to weave
between the cars, inoculated.
This long curing in a half-day sun.
Melt rubber and exhaust-smoked asphalt.
No filter for cruel light or for the dead
heat vacuum; no breeze or charitable draft.
A paper cup to stop the change
from slipping through fingers like rough
sausages, scarred from old odd
labors: a fuddled bout can-opening
with a rusty tossed screwdriver.
You are hermetic, tight as the sealed windows
you watch slip by. At dusk roll up your little mat
of torture, shuffle back to a place
of numb repose, and once again,
you think to step before some truck’s wheels;
the days don’t pass but that they sound
of thunder. (A match lit to hell)
Once you knew that suffering
had rewards. On those ferocious training days,
long tempo runs on the beach. A soft pink glow
called for sunrise and the sweet sheen
of coconut-oiled naked bellies.
You imagined them admiring your gait,
gliding out over dunes and back again.
You, a boomerang of your own fashioning,
packed a runner’s high to cheer you halfway.
Your last good jog detoured in rolling blue
Virginia; you half lost in twilight, rising uphill.
Every step a footprint of the will, until
you found a tiny moon-stained patch
of cemetery resting flat on the peak.
A cake of dead angels greeted you.
When you grasped the soft beauty of stone-
cooled shadows and blue-holed
stars, the chalky graffiti of clouds,
the balance of it all, you smiled,
and thought you’d pass by there again.
LC Gutierrez is a product of many places in the South and the Caribbean, as well as writing and comparative literature programs at Louisiana State and Tulane University. An erstwhile academic, he now writes, teaches and plays trombone in Madrid, Spain. His work is most recently published or forthcoming in Notre Dame Review, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, South Florida Poetry Journal, Sweet, and Hobart.