I carried a
flora & fauna
many of them
a sort of
I carried them
across the country,
burning old peat bogs
as I tooled through
on cruise control
past native grasses
and sun-drenched scrub.
When it was time
to turn around,
back across the desert,
pitying me my
I realized there was more to Missouri
that summer, working in the middle of the state.
On Fridays I'd take Highway 50 from
Jeff City to Union, through antique towns,
past fields of hip-high grass that hushed
wispy and soft, green-gold in
June and July's late-setting light.
The spell would break hard when
I hit the interstate, leaving only a fleeting
afterimage as I braced for the
reality of lane changes and going
home, to my parents.
One August evening, somewhere west of Rosebud
I drove past a field whose grass was freshly
cut, left to hay in shaggy rolls, two dozen
of them spread out like a herd of bison grazing
quiet in a pasture holding nothing else
but a single sun-soaked tree.
At its far end the field ran up against a treeline,
giving rise to one of Missouri's unsung hills.
Above the hill a hawk tracked higher on
a thermal while cumulus and contrail
slowly absorbed the colors of the sunset.
I was late getting home that night.
When my parents asked me where I'd been I
said nothing, only handed them
I rolled into the pocket of
that eight-ball-sided dream.
I bumped out with the poetry heebie-jeebies,
crapulous and reeking of split-end angst.
I could not sleep until I brushed the clues away;
it was only then I’d filled the crossword in:
as quiet as the heron fishing
reluctantly in a culvert along the bleeding interstate;
as solemn as the screeching hawk perched in a sunset tree
meditating keen on its blind, nocturnal dinner—
At home amongst the long-legged power towers,
changing colors like a leaf, not afraid to fall.
The slow ember burn of a cigarette night
lurches its way to the time-safe hamburger stand.
It’s just a little red shack napping on the back road
of a small mom’s-youth town. Still, its call reaches
out to the bicentennial highway, lapping at the ears
of those trucking visions of hot popping grease
and fries. Clenched-stomach truckers make
unplanned left-hand turns, beating back the
dirt road, their headlights fanning out
across the once-cut wheat like waves finding
the water-worn beach at midnight. The goddess
of ground beef, big of hip and thigh, sets
her thick elbow on the counter and asks
for several patties thick and sizzling.
We’ve got hungry goateed mouths to feed,
she says. Bikers and tourists kneel and salivate,
holding out their handlebar hands, looking
askance for ketchup and mustard. But the
goddess returns no onion. Her empty-bun
cry repeals all ablutions. It’s just ice-cream,
she says, going pink and cool at the center.
It’s just ice-cream.