Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Interstate 80 runs through Nevada
flat out on the sand
stretching mile after mile until
it drops off over the horizon in both directions
There’s not much to see -

75 MPH signs,
traveler’s jetsam strewn across the flanks
of the streaming black highway -
Glass and metal jewels sparkling in the hot sun,
the occasional tumbleweed,
or the rusty skeleton of something abandoned -
car bones, trailer bones, fence bones,
treeless ridges are hazy ghosts in the distance
waiting for their turn to loom up to the right or left

Passing an isolated exit, a white sign appears
grows bigger as the miles condense.
Huge and square and out of place,
a wooden post-it note slapped across the desert scenery,
black letters painted on it proclaim

Here? I wonder
Right here at the...
Rye Patch Truck Stop -
I read the name as the car zips past
the cluster of sun faded buildings hunkered together
at the end of the freeway ramp
halfway up the high side of the valley’s expanse.

The thought makes me laugh -
All those people out there looking for Jesus.
Wouldn’t it be a hoot if
all this time
he was out here in the desert,
with the sagebrush and the coyotes and the scorpions
easy off and on exit on a highway that stretches
coast to coast?

It makes a sort of sense I decide,
driving along, thinking about the idea.

Maybe he got fed up with all those Sunday Christians
praising his glory on one day of the week
and then trashing each other on the other six
Maybe he got tired of people arguing over his name - a rose
is a rose is a thorn is a rose
Maybe he decided to wait it out
someplace out of the way
until folks came to their senses
or evolved
(although no one has seen much in the way of that
in humans
in the last thousand years or two)

Maybe he is holed up here
at the Rye Patch Truck Stop
flipping burgers in the cafe each day
blessing the top of each bun as he places it carefully
over an all beef patty with cheese or without
hold the onions or extra tomatoes
He blesses the burger,
the grain, the cow, the customer.
Maybe all the sodas and iced teas and lemonades
he passes over the counter
are holy water in disguise.

Maybe he's not completely incognito -
the monks who arrive in pick up trucks and cowboy boots
always figured he was somewhere nearby anyway.
They’d smelled him in the chapparal just after a rainburst.
They’d heard him in the lowing of the cattle around a waterhole.
And pilgrims stop at the truck stop
on their way to someplace more important.
Driving off again in their campers or big rigs
wondering suddenly about their destination.
Sometimes, on impulse, they’d turn around and
head back from where they started,
not sure why.
Local Indians who stop in to buy bread
or play a game of cards back by the slot machines
nod and recognize him without fanfare.
They’re used to finding shamans
in ordinary places.

Maybe after the day winds down
Jesus retires to that solitary white and turquoise trailer
that’s perched up there at the foot of the nearest mountain.
He walks the dusty road that winds up from
the parking lot behind the cafe.
Past the dumpsters, just fifteen minutes until he
Pushes open the door,
it’s never locked.

Maybe he climbs up the metal steps.
Inside it's dark and still and muffled,
closed in like a cave.
He opens the curtains to invite in
more of the evening’s cooling air.
He feeds the cat. Kicks off his boots.
Opens the tiny refrigerator, he pushes the milk to the back
and slides a new six pack onto the top shelf.
Lifting one bottle back out in his hand, he
shuts the door with a soft click.
He steps back outside, settles
into an old aluminum lawn chair
and twists the top off of his beer.

Maybe he watches the river down below,
a gray blue ribbon that splits the landscape.
He watches the slow hum of travelers still on the highway,
sealed inside their cars with
air conditioning and CD’s playing.
He watches the sun ease down to kiss the opposite mountains
in a moment of blush pink,
another moment of warm orange,
a final moment of hushed purple.

Maybe he listens to the wind
which has traveled
around the world,
down the long arid valley,
up the sides of the mountains,
to bring the nightly news.
He listens to the wind blow
whistle cry scream whisper sigh the stories,
the headlines of the day -

rush hour traffic and jack rabbits and redwood trees
whales out at sea and submarines under the ice caps
mothers rushing children into a bath or through their homework
or to the emergency room across town
lovers trysting and owls silently swooping
down over the staccato run of a tiny mouse
politicians rubbing their eyes over mountains of small font
prayers and curses being offered in a thousand languages
keyboards clicking and wars smouldering and flags flying
Jesus closes his eyes and listens to the wind.

a meow breaks in,
soft pressure brushing across his bare feet.
He sighs and smiles and
rubs his hand through soft gray fur.
Leaning back, the lawn chair creaks under his weight.
He takes a long, slow swallow
of cold beer, and looks down at the bottle
sweating in his hand.

Maybe he’s still waiting.

June 2006


Blogger Deb R said...

Wow, that gave me chills, Laume.

Please tell me you're going to post the link to that on the Poetry Thursday site!!

1:44 PM  
Blogger JulieZS said...

ooooh that was a good one, I got chills too Laume. One always finds something of worth out in the desert, you certainly did during your travels.

10:04 AM  
Blogger Kirsty said...

Wow, just, WOW...and then everyone else said it too! Chills, and ...Wow.


8:14 PM  

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