Little House 4 Sale
A particle board sign leans from the dirt of Johnny’s front yard
against the Tuff Shed he converted to a loft, letters spray-painted red,
“Little House 4 Sale $7000”
This is home, a triangle plot bound by his father’s house,
the acequia, and a South Valley road without sidewalks.
County gave him six months to move.
Turns out he’s squatting on their land.
To think they never would have noticed if his dad
hadn’t pitched a roof on his cinderblock house—without a permit
blocking the neighbors’ view of the Sandias,
those neighbors who retired from somewhere back east (or was it California?)
on an acre in a fixer-upper that a from-here family couldn’t keep—or maybe they could
but why when you get more house on the west side and it’s new?
The same neighbors spent a year in and out of planning
and zoning just to build a higher fence around their property.
This is not Milagro. Our Johnny did not inherit a field of beans.
In this plot—setting: South Valley, ‘Burque, USA
the hero lives off the land
in a trailer park, halfway house, shed.
This is history.
In the beginning my land was your land was our land. We were made
to share—work, water, harvest. We were made
to relate—to each other, to this place. The elders say, “We didn’t know
we were poor.” The elders say, “Life was hard. All that work.”
This is math.
Land area is greater than cash flow.
Cash equals groceries. Cash equals car.
Land equals time. Land equals work.
Job equals cash, equals taxes, mortgage, and deed.
(Where deed does not equal water or mineral rights, land equals zero.)
Divide and subdivide. Sell.
Using the transitive property,
Land equals cash.
Some on the margins never leave. They pitch a shed on a triangle of land
and the boundaries shift. You put your knees to the dirt, the whole world
in a squash blossom, and when you look up you find your two sisters ran
off with gabachos, sold out to developers, Daddy’s land is an apartment complex.
This state hit one hundred years.
We still don’t speak American. No value,
but in things.
We were not made for this.
Johnny says, When I sell the house, I’m gonna buy
me a trailer. I’m gonna buy me some land. Maybe
out there in the mountains.
One year later, the sign still leans against the shed, the price
dropped from seven thousand to five. Johnny smokes
on the stoop. Guess he figured out a way to stay. Guess
the county forgot him. These things never go
according to plan.