North Platte

I wrote this in a motel room very late (or early in the morning) after a long day of driving across Nebraska (towards the end of a cross country road trip with 3 college friends). We had arrived in North Platte in the middle of a great thunderstorm, lightning striking everywhere and tornado warnings on the radio (sadly my friends would not let me chase them). The hallways of the motel resembled a scene in The Shining, and I think all the traveling had really started affecting my brain – especially since I had left MD weeks earlier knowing that I would never see my great aunt ever again (she died of cancer just a few days into the trip). So was born the following….

North Platte

My stomach knots
and this hotel room smells familiar
and my clothes for tomorrow
will be the same as a few days ago
and my big thrill at two in the morning
will be brushing my teeth and showering.

I have the comfort of not caring—
outside the wind stops
and the moon slowly dissolves into shadows
and a mountain lion slips across an asphalt road
staring at the headlights of an intrusive car.

My friends will travel out in the morning,
but I will have slipped away,
Finding a way to grow a flower
in a littered empty coffee cup,
Kicking desert dust up under flip flops
Running towards away,
away to oblivion,
Taillights dimming around a curve
and my friends forgetting to wave goodbye.

Somehow in the dark
I can see my past clearly like my great aunt’s eyes
that stare from the coming sunbeams
and the white clouds and the dark clouds that
flash streaks of splitting lightning
and I grow older and older.

Just yesterday I was a fire ant
marching beside our tent
by the side of some Colorado river and cliffs
in some Colorado valley
where an old fashioned cowboy’s voice sang modern country
to a fading full moon
and ranch workers drunk around a bonfire
who went to sleep sometime.

My friends sleep—they breathe in and out
like the stale hotel room is alive.
But me, I am spitting up blood until dawn
till there’s no more left and I can look forward
to being the skyscrapers of bright city skylines
and the sharp cliffs of national parks.
Tomorrow you’ll hear my relief
exhale across the plains.

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