The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Brenda Yates

Interstate 5 Dreamscapes


Rows of green crops flash by like slats in a fence, give way to groves (citrus, stone-fruit, nut) then to the stench of fertilizer, feedlots and dust spinning its devils across dry fields. Signs sprout, shouting out promises of Jesus and Judgment Day or raging about politics, water wars and thirst to come. Billboards shimmer, entice—relief just hours away. Instead, miles ahead a truck overturns, blocking all lanes.

Restart. Blow a bit of cool. Kill engine again. Vehicles working fields, or anything that moves, spews grit, salting lips, even sun-glassed eyes. Long after dark, we creep by on the shoulder, past crews still clearing the wreck, its eerie cargo lit: a carnival under emergency lights, carousel spilling painted horses. Twisted, broken. Upside down. Mid-gallop, mid-prance. Bright white teeth shining in the rictus of their gaping mouths. Were we going or coming? I can't remember.




BRENDA YATES grew up on military bases before settling in Los Angeles. Awarded a Patricia Bibby Prize and the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Poetry Prize, she is the author of Bodily Knowledge (Tebot Bach 2015). Her poems appear in Mississippi Review; City of the Big Shoulders: An Anthology of Chicago Poetry (University of Iowa Press) and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI: Tennessee (Texas Review Press).



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