My good friend Scott has a birthday today. Here is one for him.
I stepped off the train in Rock Springs
hours before we had planned to meet.
The air smelled of rain falling
but not reaching the ground. I wandered
among dust until dark, until everything
but the bars closed. Scott was late, then
hunched over the Volvo’s wheel as he drove
past me on the curb. When he stepped around
to the passenger seat I drove us into a night
already ripening into tomorrow.
We headed north, both of us taciturn.
Grass and sage stretched east and west.
Beyond them in the dark the Wind Rivers rose.
The predators–bears, wolves, coyotes–had been shot
or fenced out, so rabbits had the run of the place.
They dashed through our headlights, the pavement
bumpy with their crushed bodies. I sucked in my breath
at the smack and crunch of quick death.
We agreed to sleep under the stars
and the aspens at the Eden cemetery,
outside town. A warm wind blew
over tilted tombstones and the weathered
stockade fence. We cocooned ourselves
in sleeping bags on the dusty ground.
While we slept the air froze. Death
surrounded us all night, our trip
just beginning. Ahead of us
were scuffed boots and several pitches
before we reached any clear view.
We carried a list of adventures and futures
we couldn’t imagine. The ghosts of settlers and nomads
whispered lessons the dead learn when they leave
their bodies to the earth. The words stiffened
in the cold air, drifted with the scent of sage,
wrapped the fence, the stones with blankets of ice.
We lay in the moments before shadows,
reviewing frame by frame what might come,
then lifted our bags and scattered frost
into the dust. When wind rubbed smooth
our tracks, these fragile crystals would melt,
moisten grass and bits of fur
and the remnants of bones. These blades of ice,
pulled from October air, would rise, fall
again and settle in sedimentary cracks.
With the patience of ice they would push down
stone after stone from the peaks the morning light
had just begun to warm with the scent of day.