This month we offer this good heat, a canyon.
Next month we stay
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M. A. Dubbs is an award-winning Mexican-American and LGBT poet from Indiana. For over a decade, Dubbs has published writing in magazines and anthologies across six countries. She is the author of An American Mujer through Bottlecap Press (2022) and served as judge for Indiana’s Poetry Out Loud Competition. She recently won the 2023 Holden Vaughn Spangler Award from River City College MUSE.
Outside my hometown is a canyon about a half-mile wide. Most of it belongs to the Bureau of Land Management and various oil drilling companies. In the center is a wash you can drive down. It goes on for a few miles before ending at a locked cattle gate. From there it’s private ranch land all the way out to Colorado. It has an official name, but everybody calls it Chokecherry Canyon.
In high school, my buddy Alex and I would get out of class and head straight there. We’d go in my old Camry or in his brother’s pickup truck, smoking Newports with the windows down, blasting that one song we both liked, yelling out the lyrics as loud as we could while the wheels spun along the sandy curves in the road. When we smoked our cigarettes down to the filter we stuffed them in an old plastic juice bottle I kept in the backseat. He used to just toss the butts out the window until I got mad at him for it. Sometimes, when we’d park and look out at the sagebrush, he’d suddenly put his arms around my shoulders, bring me down to his chest, and laugh. I’d push my hands against him and try to wrestle out of his grip as if I didn’t like it.
He would end up spending time in jail for a drunk and disorderly and my parents would forbid me from moving out to the city with him for college. Now he works on a cattle ranch in North Dakota and we don’t talk anymore. Sometimes I wonder what kind of things he does there, how he looks now, if he smells the same.
At some point, the bottle of cigarette butts rolled under the passenger seat and, having quit smoking, I forget about it. Years later, cleaning out the Camry before selling it, I find the bottle again. There must be a hundred of our stubs in there, the bottom half of the bottle now a sludge of tobacco and strips of orange filter paper. Before tossing it in the trash, I have an urge to unscrew the cap and drink it down, nicotine and spit and all.
Kody Owen is an English student from rural New Mexico.