The Most Memorable Fact from Middle School Health Class
Contractors from the towing company use Coca-Cola to clean
traffic collisions. The timing of the soak needs to be exact,
just enough to wash off blood but not enough to strip paint.
I wonder if the workers ever pour one out for the spills
no longer belonging to a body. I’d like to believe so,
perhaps not every time, but on the occasions the moon is full
& the street lights are flickering; while the wax is still unlit;
before the flowers get taped to bicycles & the street signs
become headstones; & in anticipation of the wind blowing
out candles & the vigil being delivered an ultimatum
of police sirens: evaporate or solidify. Regardless, Our Lady
of Guadalupe would still cry with molten tears. She holds
photographs in memoriam & the ink never dries—
framed in roses that never wither because our departed
don’t have names here. I ask the teacher, when she says a nail
can dissolve in Coke, does she mean a human being’s?
It’s hard to say what I was calling for. At first glance, it seems I was pleading for greater cultural humility from my hometown, or even the world at large. But it might not even be that deep. I think I’m just looking for life to be celebrated & wishing there were more avenues to do so.
Recently, I saw loved ones carefully tend to two memorials near where I live—bringing Mylar balloons and fresh flowers on what I imagine might have been a birthday or anniversary. When I read J.C.’s piece, this memory and the image of other makeshift memorials that I often see on street corners and attached to sign poles around Los Angeles came to mind.
J.C. Rodriguez is a writer from Long Island. His poetry has appeared in places like Waxwing, Meow Meow Pow Pow, and Brooklyn Poets. He was a 2022 Periplus Fellow & is a first-year MFA student at Syracuse University. He exists online @ brownmoon.rip & his favorite soda is Diet Dr. Pepper.
Erica Rawles is an artist and writer from Los Angeles. Her artwork explores themes of memory and home. Her arts and culture writing has been featured in The New York Times Style Magazine, Artforum Magazine, KCET Artbound, and The Nation among others.