Desert Drive Motel (NO VACANCY)

by Nawaal Bhuiyan

“What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?” — Benjamin Alire Sáenz


the space between us crackles

            with the dry heat of the desert.

                        the yellow moon is a yolky wash

                                    on your skin—

and i see your mouth,

the way your tongue curls inside your Red Rock smile,

wet like rainwater on the sizzling sand of your lips.


            the engine of my car

is a constant rhythm beneath my body,

                                    beneath yours,

and it purrs like the Mojave Desert cicada,

filling this expansive sea of hot, dry silence.


your pointed finger is my Polaris,

an orange smoke signal in the vast black

                                                                                    of the shimmering sky,

and i see it now,

that blazing red sign


(that’s it, you say, that’s the Desert Drive Motel)


and i think it’s a mirage,

a sweltering neon illusion,

and it sears into my brain

until Desert Drive Motel

is each eyelid’s afterimage.


the redorangepurpleblue

hovers in my periphery,

and it blurs the distance

between you and me


between you and that grainy film of sand on your skin


between me and the sweat that plasters my hair to my temple


between the gurgling canyon and the sky that’ll swallow us whole.


(you’re my star, baby. you’re the jewel of California)


and it’s in this sleazy room

that smells of gasoline

and acidic desert rain

that your mouth on mine

is the sharp bite of the sultry July sun,

a red ruby in the sky above

the baked clay of an eroding valley.


the yellow dust soaks into your hair,

and i think you smell like the desert.