Clade Song 6
Clade Song 6 Left

Clade Song 6

Elegies for the Central Valley


I remember the moment
of re-entering the valley
by the feel of the temperature
in the air layering
the skin on my hand
with warmth and crop dust,
a signal of welcoming.

I looked at the lights
on the horizon,
thought they were little
open fires
needing water,
but they were from the homes
of a development
and I saw the sound towers,
the highest marks in the land,
blinking blue and red
in alternation.


A store-owner tells a joke
of having an extra supply of plywood
in the back
that he could nail
over the windows
for when the graveyard
adds another plot.

Someone washes a car,
refusing to believe in wishful thinking
that rain will come
clear the smudges
and dead insect streaks.

The johns pass the dining hall
next to tent city
for a girl who hasn’t been able
to smell past the zone
of slick latex and recyclables.
She is virtuous.


Before we knew how to garden
we believed in farms
and flea markets,
a seeded watermelon
and a batch of chopped chestnut.

My father and I sold tomatoes
in the summer
out of his pickup bed
to restaurants along Highway 12
and Grant Line Road,
“escape routes”
they were referred to as,
by those who had intentions
of remaining,
but wanted the allure
of something greater.


Our family would eat fried chicken
and corn on a public table
facing the delta,
trying to see who would be the first
to see a steelhead trout elevate,
break the rhythm of the tide
for a moment,
and absorb the heat
that gathers above the surface.


Somewhere under Whistler Street
is a place I sprained my wrist
bicycling down a hill
too fast and flipping
over the handlebars.
My mother was grateful for the dirt,
noticing the sticks in the ground
with flags and measurements.
She said someday, this will be
a hard road,
someday soon,
we will have to find
another open space
to walk after dinner.


Neighborhood hero
(hit by a truck on Interstate 5)
couldn’t cross the Calaveras
unless backtracking
six miles by foot.

The old sounds barriers
crumble for construction,
a new Fastlane
paved over the spray-painted
spot of death.

His initials scratched with
a pocketknife
on a park bench
around the corner from home.

They buried him
in a clean shroud without a coffin
and everyone took turns
shoveling their share of dirt.


Refinished furniture
sits in an open garage,
attracting a slight breeze
straining through the cattails,
and their flat blade leaves.

It waits for dryness,
for an owner to reach some
sort of perfection
by sanding away
all the impurities that remain.

A can of golden oak gloss stain
sits open nearby on a shelf,
a bristle brush handle sticking out,
and a thawed oxygen mask.




Clade Song 6 Right
Mostafa 2 Tamer Mostafa is a Stockton, California native whose work has appeared in various journals and magazines such as Confrontation, Triggerfish Critical Review, Mobius: The Journal of Social Change, and Phantom Kangaroo among others. He is the founder and editor of Subject to Surveillance, a literary journal geared towards giving the Islamic population a voice to speak out against oppression, discrimination, and stereotyping.