From Fresno Dust I Came

and now I ride back in my father’s van, 
carless grad student in San Francisco 
too afraid of the pandemic to take Amtrack. 
It takes months for me to relinquish my rented room, 
drive a material life back to the Central Valley, 
rearrange furniture in the vibrant pink and green 
bedroom I painted at seventeen. 
My classmates see the walls when we Zoom. 

A year later and we slowly reopen 
public spaces, River Park, masked people 
brush shoulders in Fashion Fair. 
I said I would never move back 
but familiarity captivates. 
The intoxication of being known – 
the chiropractor who realigns my spine again, 
the librarian who brings my holds outside 
used to bring her daughter to ballet lessons 
taught by my sister in our living room, 
the barista at Kuppa Joy who I recognize 
as the daughter of another homeschool family. 

My boyfriend and I take Blossom Trail portraits, 
white almond flowers leading to foothills, 
after lunch at Mad Duck and before Jamba Juice. 
He relocated here in May, semi desert in a pandemic, 
so I show him around the Valley. 
Rearrange my skepticism and impulse to leave, 
enjoy the blooms and coming fruit. 
I’ve always wanted to run down a lush vineyard row. 
What would it be like to have a straight path? 

I live with my parents now, 
where our dogs ask to go on walks every evening 
but the asphalt burns even after dark. 
The trees drip ivy and our dogs catch flowers 
in their fluffy dark coats. Other places I’ve lived, 
I drank greenness. Here I am an air plant, 
surviving on rare wildflower sightings, 
but somehow I’ve produced an unexpected pink blossom. 
My grandmother always wants to know where I’m going, 
my parents don’t care but I tell them anyway. 
I think I’m supposed to miss independence. 

At Teazers I order the drink I craved in high school 
and at church I talk with people I’ve always known. 
But Fresno has grown older too, newness and expansion, 
so I try Collect Coffee Bar. Sit in the unfinished 
building space until my computer dies. 
Read outside at Sierra Vista Mall, 
watch mothers let toddlers run around the fountains. 

To Central Valley dust I return. 
It shimmers as I drive the 99, 
tumbleweeds rolling in the orchards, 
palm trees and pine trees along the freeway. 
Am I allowed to be happy here? 
So much time driving away, living other places, 
fulfillment in snow and thunderstorms. 
College in Mississippi, graduate school in San Francisco, 
I always thought I needed to leave. 
But suddenly, inexplicably, a curve in the road. 
I find myself driving back.

--Trianne H., Adult