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Breaking Point by Robin Carstensen

Beyond the Buena Vida Senior Village

sprawled across the old grain field,

your cloud nearly touches his hovering 

over the desk, where you’ve both made it

after all to this last office down the hall,

far end of Del Mar West, the outreach campus—

edge of the oil refinery city, South Texas 

Gulf Coast, where you finally finished

your own heavy lifting, defended

your dissertation after playing medic,

dishwasher, short-order cook, pizza-hut

deliverer, now trying to catch a new

break, he lifts his draft—essay one—

above the shaft of afternoon dust, 

gauzy thick like revision-talk for making 

clear and academically sound his life

on the industrial edge, the drug lords 

who track him to every address, 

tempt him with rolls of bills—favor

for his father and brother behind

Beeville’s bars, whose sealed mouths 

and flared eyes command him to stay 

his course. The vapor from their locked-in

dreams beating like the Royal Tern’s 

wings heavy with metal residue 

lifting against the chemical sky 

has gathered in the atmosphere 

of his face and yours when you look 

into the large, black shades that veil

his eyes, you freeze, hear the distant

pierce of an engine’s gullet full-throttling 

down Old Brownsville Road, or urgent 

call of gull. The sound is closing in, 

and now it strikes you—here, escaping

his throat. His brick shoulders shake,

his lips are wet, and the issue at stake 

is cracking the surface, beyond the point 

of saturation, his life, and yours, dark

chambers in the cold room about to break.


Learn more about Robin

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