Poems, Iconic White Crosses, and Memories
First published on September 22, 2013, in Somos en escrito Magazine
By Sarah Cortez
Vanishing Points: Poems and Photographs of Texas Roadside Memorials, edited by poet Sarah Cortez, is a memorial in itself to the thousands of spontaneous roadside memorials, usually marked by small metal crosses, which line Texas highways. The prominent display of these iconic white crosses, some with accumulated mementoes, is often ignored by motorists.
Yet these roadside memorials are invitations to pause, invitations to ponder the meaning of life and death. This volume of poems responds to these invitations with an array of stunning black and white photographs of these Texas roadside memorials accompanied by poems written by some of the state’s finest poets.
That day you grabbed
the armadillo’s tail
and jerked it upside down
as it snarled and raked
air with black claws.
Remember? All of us laughing
at the squirming, silver ball
of scaly, pissed-off critter
who’d thought he’d burrow
into safety when chased.
It’d be on that day—if
I could have you back—that
exact moment. Your right arm
outstretched under scrub oak
alongside a one-lane road.
You, flushed, breathing hard,
sweaty—that instant suspended
the same as that armadillo
who’s now probably as dead as you,
alongside some other back road nearby.
By Sarah Cortez
But the sky, Nate, the big blue sky
crowns this cross so far above
both you and me that I get scared
just trying to think about it. And
I promise you I still believe in God,
and I believe in His Only Son Jesus Christ,
and I believe in the Spirit sent down
upon us like the dewfall. I believe, I
believe, I’ve always believed, but
I have a hole in my chest
where my heart loved you, and I
walk around like a clock without
a mechanism, and I’m not joking
when I say I’m dead too
now. Not just inside, the cold
blackness, but outside, and only,
and only this wind up high here
and the burning sun and
the million pesky grasshoppers buzzing
remind me that God’s ways
are so infinite and beyond,
so far above my mind, my pitiful
body, my heart-no-longer-there
that I’d just better go on
into whatever I have
left after losing you. Not
that I know what
that is. But there’s something.
There’s bound to be
worth living for.