One of the things we do for pay, me and Slade, is keep count
of who’s left. Think of us as Friday census workers for the Bureau.
Slade wasn’t good with the fraud at first, but then we’re all
not what we are anyway. We talk about leaving here as if
it’s walking out a door. I think we want to hear what it sounds like.
A lot of animals don’t make it. The scorpions and rattlesnakes
do okay, but it’s the big hides who need water, and no one shares.
Bodies lie open on routes that lead out, and the stink carries in
on the winds. There’s no mistaking it, the roads here look like
spokes cross-pointed and soaring to the inner hoop of a wheel
at risk for being crushed, and we keep it in perfect turning.
And there is no wheel.
Rebecca Gayle Howell is the author of Render / An Apocalypse, selected by Nick Flynn for the 2012 Cleveland State University First Book Prize. She is also the translator of Amal al-Jubouri’s Hagar Before the Occupation / Hagar After the Occupation (Alice James Books, 2011). “You Can’t Tell the Truth” is excerpted from her current manuscript, a purgatory set in West Texas.
Feature image by Leandro Erlich, Window and Ladder–Too Late for Help, 2008. Metal ladder, underground hidden metal structure, aluminum frames, fiberglass brick wall. 14 3/4 x 5 1/4 feet. Photography: Clara Cullen. Courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly, New York.