Somewhere, in the yellow hills of Calaveras County,
Our truck winds through patches of sun and nut trees,
I don't know where.
The driver plots the way,
A line straight across the centerfold of California.
This is where we are, he says,
If the state could fold itself in half.
I roll down the window just enough to stretch one arm into the heat,
Feel the wind pick up my hair and toss it around,
Watch my fingers flap in the rear-view mirror.
At Rinaldi's Market, my driver loads up on
Beer and cheese,
Sausage and cigarettes.
I eye these vices nervously—
Knowing it won't be long before I'm juggling all four.
Soon enough, up and up we go,
Into the foothills of the Sierras,
Passing signs painted, "Goats for Sale."
Edging by stores that, he says, We don't go into.
Arrived, I meet the farmers,
Skinny boys with names from the Bible,
I’m older than they.
Their house is wood and honey,
All summer campy and cool,
A porch wraps around it like a belt,
Buckling at the front door.
We work methodically and hours fall fast,
Swept under the rug like trimmings.
And just as I start to feel crazed and stuck and desperate,
I take myself,
All tank top and skirt and legs,
And pull on boots
Stolen from the porch of these boys.
Trooping into gold grass,
A turkey screeches across my feet
And the horses look up and stare.
The butt of the gun presses into my shoulder,
Peer through the scope,
Aim and Pow and Ding-Ding,
You hit the target! the boys shout.
Weeds with heads the size of small snowballs
Get stuck in Charlie Browns' Christmas tree,
And Oh, Holy Night, the stars coruscate
And I stare and stare.
I ask myself
Where my map is—
You are in the centerfold.