I wanted to be Dick Van Dyke
in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
crossing my hands over my knees
and dancing with a bamboo pole.
Perhaps, that’s why whenever we walked
down by the Stanislaus River
where bamboo shoots grew in clumps
I would ask to cut one down
to take home and polish like his.
But it was always too long to fit
in the station wagon or mini van—
the same way the chunks of salt
I wanted to take from the salt flats
were sure to corrode floor of the car
before we could make it home.
I wanted to be able to taste
the heat of the day on my fingertips
in case I forgot the zinc-colored sky
and the names spelled out with rocks
and shoes and sticks by the side
of the interstate
because memory alone can’t conjure up
the blaze of glare reflecting off
an endless alkaline plane
or the shape of my mother’s skirt
as she stands waving into the wind—
the same way that you can’t see thunder
or smell a quarrel coming on
the way you do rain.