Project Description


Weren’t we lucky to stop in the Valley of Fire
just after dark, in time to see the impromptu
firework display beyond the gas station parking lot
on the day after Thanksgiving? And weren’t we lucky
to find the bathrooms clean and decent
in the convenience store attached to the casino
and no literal fire engulfing the valley?
Back on the road, the sound of droning cars
coupled with your voice, reading
The Chinese Cinderella by the red light
of a headlamp, and formed a song
not yet robbed of its magic. Meanwhile
fires were lit robbing people
of their homes back in Los Angeles,
but we kept driving. We drove
until the dark doubled in darkness.
We drove until my hip ached from all the
sitting and shifting in our small car. It ached more
than it ever has, but not more than Adeline’s
young heart as she watched her duckling
die in the jaws of a dog. In Chimayo
the superstitious harvest wet dirt and
swear it will cure your fractured body
or spirit if you invoke the name of Jesus
and rub it into your flesh. I saw
too many dead things on the road to believe
in anything right now: a rattler, a raven, a ringtail,
a coyote, two dogs. My exact accounting. I didn’t
point them out to you, though I thought about it,
because there are things we don’t need
to see. We are so fortunate because we have crossed
many lands and roads on our own accord
and not once have we had a pair of headlights
bearing down on us as they bore down
on those whose bodies
no combination of dirt and name can lift.

Tommy Jarrell

Tommy Jarrell was born and raised in Maryland. He earned his MFA at the University of California, Irvine in 2015. His work has appeared in The Squaw Valley Review, The Hunger, and 805. He currently lives, writes, and teaches in Los Angeles.