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.


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