Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ode to the West

A journey is a story
It opens on a cast of characters
Baking under a dusty sun
Follows their arc like the shallow parabola
Of the old truss bridge right outside of town
And concludes with a sigh
Under the evening rains

The barbed-wire fences run 
Alongside the tracks for miles 
The wooden posts blending seamlessly 
Into the hills which tower 
Over the tracks like sentinels 

Slain, the watchers fall away
To reappear along the horizon
Folding over each other like
A child’s drawing, edges perfect
Curved unending into sky

Endless, spotless 
The heavens blend from gray 
To blue 
Dotted only by the dust 
Of a tractor, alone in the fields 

The silence of the pastoral world
Broken only by the whistle
Blown as a warning to wary
Cars, impatient in the heat

The peace inside is just as fleeting 
While small feet scamper by 
Voices from the wall proclaim 
A stumbling narrative of artichokes and garlic 
Mingled with corrections and apologies 

They ignore the iron pistons
Drawing black liquid from the black soil
Which rise and fall in time
To music known only to them

Sleeping alongside these giants 
Are infinite rows of greenery
Arranged like the barcodes
Awaiting them on the shelves
First lettuce, then olives 
And the ever-present grape 
Growing where no grass ever could 

Soon the entire valley is full up
Food for a nation moist
– Leaves glistening in the slow-setting sun –
Covers the floor, mountain to mountain
Checkered by poverty and pickups

Nearing the first cluster of cities 
The cars race alongside the tracks 
Where once they were victorious 
Now they fall behind 

Through the windows
Orbs of light dot the horizon
Reflecting off the opposite side
Multiplying out to infinity

As the train trundles on 
The changing of the guard 
Families replaced by singles 
Spreading cream cheese 
On bageled substitutes for dinners missed 

Mount the bunk
Careful not to lose your head
Watch out for the one with the cape
Follow the swordsmen fleeing his mother
Lights out


With the morning comes
Vibrant greens and blues
The tracks float above the lake
As half-awake breakfasters munch

Before the orange juice
The plains spread out ahead
By the French toast, mountains
Slowly, then quickly
And then the ground falls away

Clinging desperately to earth
Surrounded by empty wilderness
Filled with sentinel pines
Small patches of children
Guarded by towering elders

Alternating tunnels and trestles
Wrap around the peaks
Each darkness brings new
Scenery and foliage
Dryer and darker

Descent, unnoticeable 
Brings crossings and lumberyards 
Playgrounds and backyards 
Too-short fences fail to hide 
Private lives scattered in the grass 

Rust mingles with water
Along rivers long marred by industry
Reclaiming stolen beachfront
One bolt, one rivet, one weld at a time

Islands herald the northern points 
Ships grow longer than trains 
And bridges multiply 
Another of countless valleys 
Familiar to settlers from ‘49 

The squeaking, which disappeared
One stop past home
Has surfaced as the train slows
Past spotted cows and fields

Clouds here are rich 
Thick, textured by breezes 
Off the sound – not bay – 
The southern blue speckles 
Amber-tinted grays 

Some clusters rise
Others finish their last beer
A final fact floats down the car
Houses replace fields
Telephone lines, pines

We follow one final curve 
Past the fishermen casting low 
The half empty parking lots 
Suburbs mixed with farms 
Before the drizzle coats the windows

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