An incompetent misunderstanding of time

I’m better off writing this poem tomorrow
during the solstice when days are balanced
like the teenage June I spent driving
through the same swarm of gnats
that congregate over dirt roads to nowhere,
past the same herd of deer,
so tranquil and ever present I assumed they were dead,
stuffed and set out for eternity to frustrate
hunters and lions with no land rights,

but I knew they were alive
because I was.
And what was the harm of wasting time driving?
I had it trapped and sitting in the bed of my truck,
time, waiting to be set free and spill about
the dust covered coulee like cleansing frost
or pungent sagebrush,

like liquor on ice in a humid sunset,
the kind of sunset that people lock in cages
with cameras and paint,
the beautiful kind made from summer death
and asphyxiating heat that was always there, lurking behind
abandoned houses and under old tires, even in the winter
when heat is supposed to be playing cards with
its grandmother in Santa Fe.

I hope that I find it,
the right hour, the right second
to begin, for without it I am

But for now, I will just write a single phrase—
“loneliness without time to understand.”
to leave in a drawer to remind a future self of this
task I’ve promised a now older self to complete,
and I will stay rooted in discerning paralysis.
It is comfortable here—
death or inspiration will come
soon enough.


The road through the mountains

It’s impolite to begin a poem
with an expletive

you lost,” was all he said, at first.

Not that he said much more later,
but it is what he opened with.

The “fuck” was not in anger or distress,
it was maybe a conjunctive adverb,
the Montana “consequently.”

It was spoken as rare punctuation, a verbal quotation mark
indicating “so says I” and seemed as much a part of the man’s speech
as the droop of his left eyebrow or hole in his neck

I tried desperately not stare at.

you lost,”
teemed between question, decorative, and imperative.
I’m in my car doubting.


(me this time)
Let me try this again.

Who wouldn’t stop for a
figure who stood in the middle of the road.

He had been there as I approached,
just an idea at first that grew into a man,
a sentinel, it seemed, to the road through the mountains.

I looked past him towards the road through the mountains.
Fingers drummed the steering wheel,
thought of spitting but thought better of it.
“Does this road go through the mountains,” I asked.

So says I
“Gotta go around.”

I nodded as if I understood the situation,
noticing the stillness of the foothill grass,
the dog unmoving in the bed of the truck,

the rigid back of the head of a woman, with dark
wispy hair in the cab.
Through glass of the back window and rear-view
I could see she had no face, only eyes but her eyes looked
so tired they may not have been eyes at all
but sockets too long filled with tears or darkness,

the strangeness of life.

The dust of my approach reached him,
rural courtesy pulled along my wake.

I thanked him.
I went around.


Last time,
I promise.

The problem with poetry
is that my words set to capture
the innumerable birds of the wilderness
with the tenderness of
an axe slicing orchids,
but cannot explain
the hole
in the neck.