770 Readings

No One Will Find Us

To find a dog that’s gone missing, leave a piece of clothing behind, the scent of which the dog will follow. You can try calling, but the air is thin, and messages seldom carry.

When we leave town bound north there are 180 degrees of sagebrush
in front of us
                              & we follow the dirt road eighty miles farther
               than anyone has bothered to name a town: fleas drowned
in the sweat of a horse’s back

               We know we are invisible
in-betweens tucked in a wall of light-bulbs                swallowed up
in the glow of the bigger & better
               in the anonymity of a blank sky                 A whole valley without streetlights
the Nevada forgotten in the shadow of Vegas
                                                                                          We are dissolved
                                                                                          like lizards in the scaly brush
all life under the hot sun thriving on its invisibility                wedged in with rocks
& sifted through in the dried-up creek beds                running
would-be water over arrow-heads
                              that only appear after the spring runoff
between petrified wood cubes                & quartz shavings

               When the rain comes
               we see it coming
thirty miles off:                the clouds running on wet canvas                slate diagonals
making it halfway to the ground
                                                            Geography named for presidents
                              who’ve forgotten it:
                                                            Ike’s Canyon           Mt. Jefferson           its peak
snow-covered & blooming black in a terrarium of gunmetal clouds

               We hear the canyon walls with their streaks of ore
hurling dust devils down on the mining shacks
You sent men           you sent them with shovels
our veins are still being let      We wear our scarves like burial shrouds
to keep the dust out of our mouths & we are swaddled in woodsmoke
                                                            embalmed in bars
dark with oil paintings of nudes
                              & bloody-marys half tabasco
                                                                                We throw back the bowl of this valley
in one swig           burning holes in our throats so we can speak again
               Our lips ruined                     mouths puckered like sour chords

our voices guitar strings that rattle too-loose against the hard
               But by now we are any other string                & finally unwound:
a horsehair                a rotted-out strip of bark
Incomplete sets of bones
made blinding in our chalky transcendence
                                                            beacons to the Milky Way that scream           take me
Until the dry ground chokes its children back down
erecting desert flowers in their place:

                              bright specks of red on the cracked plain.
Posted 02/14/11
This poem was awarded a 2009-2010 AWP Intro Journals Award.
This poem first appeared in Puerto del Sol, Volume 45, Number 2 (Winter 2010).