Twenty One Miles Per Gallon (tentative title)

Your back emits beads of glassy humanity as you work.
I can hear your breath coming in short pants and huffs.
The morning has passed in a chill, but you're dripping sweat
And you aren't making any more than minimum wage.

--

Your skin retains melanin like winter retains its bite.
It's tan and smooth, only being broken by scars and beauty-marks
And the occasional blackhead, but I haven't been counting pores.
It feels like it's going to be a cold spring beginning but weather says
It will be a hot spring ending and it's going to be a
Long, humid summer that you'll work through. We're hinging on a miracle:

--

We are praying for this carbon to disintegrate
Into waves of oil that carry us onwards
From busy interstate to busy interstate
The heat will make the ink run into longer and longer words

--

We are swinging from this American deficit
Wringing out checks to make a pool of cold wind
Here's to hoping my car can make it to the end of it
These are my hands: I am not the only one who sinned

--

My forehead spits out drips of fiery rain
Landing on the pale white expanse of my face like water in the desert.
The days are getting warmer and it's staying lighter later
And I'm not even making minimum wage.

--

The pages of the newspapers will stick together.
Weather and the latest art show will bleed into a black river
Like they belong mingled with the page 6 celebrity scandals.
Heat makes homework turn into a messy swamp
Of hydrogen melting into manganese; copper into sulfur.
I've become progressively more intimate with the periodic table
And now it's clearer why we can't get enough of this element
Or not enough of one or the other. We're sucking up a dream:

--

We are praying for this carbon to disintegrate
Into waves of oil that carry us onwards
From busy interstate to interstate
The heat will make the ink run into longer and longer words

--

For now, I'll burrow in my skin to make a flimsy blanket
And slough it off when I don't remember what 'cold' feels like.