Lancaster, a final frontier

Sammy Lê | Poetry

California State Prison, 2018

she rides across the San Gabriel Mountains to the Mojave Desert town
the blue of the sky


don’t leave us like everyone else did
was what she knew they really meant
when they all stood and smiled thinly
whenever their time had come
and she was due 90 miles
back south on campus
to teach free men
we need you

than they do

she rides through Lancaster empty and empty

dusty like the end of the world where reborn ghosts writhed free

from purgatory and reinhabited flesh
to pour over Dostoyevsky in the yard

she rides through the gate

the forest in their eyes matters
and in the wilderness of the bent spine: rushing streams—
a youngness again, a youngness again—
the sort of unraveling laughter that springs forth
from a grin and a wrinkle in the brow
half joyful discovery
half light-hearted self-mockery—why did it take me this long?

not teaching a child to ride a bike
but the awe at a seed that defied the parable

rocky soil—no good for flowers
but let us not scoff at the

diaspora of the weeds
for their pale yellow is
a mattering shade