In the stippled light, the ruins of the DeAnza Motel
rise like an ancient temple.
Feral cats prowl the exterior,
eating off paper plates weighted with kibble.
The motel is wrapped in chain link
and a lone security guard sits in a torn-up chair
beneath the peeling overhang,
where travelers once pulled in,
parked outside their rooms, unpacked valises,
doors flung open to the southwest winds.
How big the place is now in its emptiness.
How far back the cracked pavement extends.
Two stories of sun-stripped doors, chipping stucco,
bent banisters, light bulbs shot out as target practice.
The dizzying faded bottom of the cracked pool
still encircled by wrought iron, with cursive lettering: DeAnza.
I’ve seen raccoons climbing out boarded vents.
I’m told there’s swarms of bees in bathtubs,
and murals uncovered; native traders who left their legacy,
a life after life, like Albuquerque, this ragged city,
layered with the dirt of wanderers passing through,
backpacks filled with the hopefulness of small dreams.
Mine right there in the mix,
no heavier or lighter than others.
Looking down Central,
everything shifting and swaying in the half light,
buses glide by, drifting in and out of view.
My father’s dodge dart fading
into my grandfather’s checker cab,
my zada’s horse and cart.
Slow learner that I am, DeAnza,
how patient you’ve been.
Rooted in concrete, not budging an inch,
as if to say, You see? It’s all right here.
The rising sun outlines the mountains,
etching their silhouettes into the filmy sky.
This is what we were given: strata of sandstone,
adobe, volcanic cones in the distance.
And I look out, still clutching my sad hopefulness.
Memories like gauze floating behind me.
In this short hour of lifting darkness,
when the dead and living overlap,
when the past and present meet as equals.
DeAnza, what have I learned in spite of myself?
Your heyday just a scratch away, only one layer down.
I can see the neon sign lit as it had once been,
and children running towards the cool water, sandals slapping.
Their tiny spirits latching onto raccoons and cats and bees
and all the souls we carry within us.
Published in Value Anthology