Martín Espada
Poet, Essayist, Editor & Translator



              Gaithersburg, Maryland


 At Scot Gas, Darnestown Road,

the high school boys pumping gas

would snicker at the rednecks.

Every Saturday night there was Earl,

puckering his liquor-smashed face

to announce that he was driving

across the bridge, a bridge spanning

only the whiskey river

that bubbled in his stomach.

Earl's car, one side crumpled like his nose,

would circle slowly around the pumps,

turn signal winking relentlessly.


Another pickup truck morning,

and rednecks. Loitering

in our red uniforms, we watched

as a pickup rumbled through.

We expected: Fill it with no-lead, boy,

and gimme a cash ticket.

We expected the farmer with sideburns

and a pompadour.

We, with new diplomas framed

at home, never expected the woman.

Her face was a purple rubber mask

melting off her head, scars rippling down

where the fire seared her freak face,

leaving her a carnival where high school boys

paid a quarter to look, and look away.


No one took the pump. The farmer saw us standing

in our red uniforms, a regiment of illiterate conscripts.

Still watching us, he leaned across the seat of the truck

and kissed her. He kissed her

all over her happy ruined face, kissed her

as I pumped the gas and scraped the windshield

and measured the oil, he kept kissing her.


from Imagine the Angels of Bread


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