Colorado turned lush suddenly—river shimmering, evergreens shimmying,
skinny with speed, closer to the sky, thinner from absorbing Aspen, wealth, and fashion. Riding storms through San Isabel and my next two campsites,
I came to Kansas doubly early. The wind and rain smashed it into Eastern Colorado—
all windmills, wheat fields, and dark clouds. I had to hug myself to walk laps
around the gas station, and even then couldn’t achieve a straight line.
Clouds and shining rainbows beamed down from above and up from below,
off the gleaming, wet road. The flatness bent the road like a rainbow,
the fields running like a wet-painted globe, their color dripping
off the edge of the world on both sides. When signal held,
the radio warned of flash flooding as far as the state could see.
So I let the driving demon have her way, riled and raring,
riding storms straight through. The road through rain reduced to the yellow brick bits
of the dotted line that matters, and I followed them without stopping.
Cowardly lions, motorcycles crouched for shelter beneath overpasses.
At the Kansas Welcome Center, impossibly flatter still, a floor mosaic sealed
the promise of free coffee after rain: “Ad Astra Per Aspera.”
In the store-side garage, a middle-aged couple rocked their fields to sleep,
needling empty passers-by for promises of pictures of anywhere else.
In the grass outside where I watered invisible flowers with undrinkable coffee,
a shed snakeskin lay intact. Some changes are that sudden.
There are places in this country where the ground is so beautiful,
I could kneel down and kiss it, and have.
There are places in this country that have broken me, but that’s shed.
Freedom. I have driven you away for good—
you my demons, you my family, you my past.
I’m a wildcat kneading the steering wheel like a cub, like a lover,
and like a Midwestern rock-wall climbing the moving road-sky.
You will look for me and find nothing but dust sparkling in the sun I ate,
swallowed with miles and mountains. It’s over.
Sometimes, I worry even glancing over my shoulder is ungrateful,
is a way to break the magic of the road, lose salvation, fall back
into the old world of pain.
It must have been the storm and my fatigue that wired me
to push forward and not say where to when the man at the neighboring pump
asked twice, guessed. Even when I realized the next city was a plain
populated by a synchronized herd of windmills polka-dotting deserted night,
I didn’t want to talk to him. Nor to the well-meaning father at the Motel 6
where I landed when I could fly no farther, after riding storms
from Moab to Salina, shaky tired and unanswering
when he asked if I’d come from west before saying he knew I had,
we kept passing each other; asked if I was alone before saying
he told his kids to put their chair up against the door for extra safety
in places like this. I smiled, nodded, and walked away.
No, I didn’t do it.
Do you know, too? You placeless and afraid with reason?
That this is our world too.
If we bluff.
If we let the sky grow us.
If we go outside and try.