by Paul Martínez Pompa

The air is like gunmetal.
An explosion
of music rattles a van's shell as it waits

the stoplight. I cross the street
and my breath rises
blends into the night

like a car alarm.
A man clutches frozen
towels and a tip box outside CITGO's car wash.

His face-scarf-smothered
as if seeing and breathing were done with

the eyes alone.
The clerk inside looks
vulnerable until I spot mounted cameras.

What else-pistol? Baseball bat?
Something defensive

tucked under the counter.
I continue
home in skin not safe to be at night.

Last updated February 24, 2023