The newspaper headlines told me so.
As I was reading the article in my bed,
eating a handful of Oreos, I thought
about being wet.
Not the kind of wet (slipperyslidyfuntimes)
you want to be,
but the kind of wet you feel in your bones.
Wet like the time my grandfather left me and my sister
watching his tackle box by the side of the road
in Toronto in six inches of slush that
was slowly seeping into my socks,
while he bought cigarettes from the man
in the oversized poncho at the gas station.
And there are cities full of dreams
and cities full of dirt,
but Las Vegas is neither of those.
It’s a city instead with no name or face,
nothing recognizable you can reach out and touch.
Someone told me once that in Spanish
Las Vegas means “the fields.”
My grandfather told me once
on a fishing trip, while I sat
on top of his tackle box,
about the Asphodel fields.
How these Romans believed
people whose sins equaled the good they did
went to the Asphodel fields, and drank
from a river that made them forget themselves,
and became ghosts
who flit like shadows on the banks.
I liked the stories about heroes better;
when my grandfather told those
he’d hit his knee and let me sit there
and hold his cigarettes while he was talking.
Back in the Tunnels of Las Vegas,
the people have started a library,
sealing their books in plastic wrap
and keeping them in blue crates
marked alphabetically by title.
In the fields above, men with no faces
sluggishly slip dollars into the thong
of a stripper who can no longer smile.
A girl in the tunnels pulls out a book on Toronto
and learns about snow.
My grandfather sits in a nursing home
connected to an oxygen tank, and tells
my son about Hades and how
under the Asphodel fields was the marsh,
where the river Lethe would flood and
1000s of souls, from time to time,
would fall into the cold wet water
and be taken in the current to
The Elm, where false dreams cling.
As I walk with my son to the car,
a man in a poncho, driving too fast
hits a puddle and splashes us with water.
The Oreos in my son’s pocket immediately
turn to mush, and his socks become
The Tunnel People from Las Vegas
have been there for five years,
fashioning a shower out of a water cooler,
hanging paintings on the walls,
kissing, smiling, having dates,
and living with cool water up to their ankles.
I tell my son not to worry about being wet,
and he smiles at me and I smile at him
and we drive home to our house in Toronto
far away from fields.
A man in the tunnels finds a tackle box,
that has washed in with the flood.
Opening it, he finds inside there is a note
that says “Sorry about the snow, love Grandpa.”
Researching with a team of scientists,
he writes an article about how double-stuffed
Oreos do not have double the icing.
The stripper in Las Vegas gets off her shift
and drinks vodka straight from the bottle,
trying to forget. Always trying
to forget. She walks outside. It is snowing,
in Las Vegas, just like it snowed when she
was a child, at home, in Toronto. She calls
her sister. I pick up the phone
and say “Hello.”