(rd king dot net)
poetry and digital art

Scenes from American Summer

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              »   Poems written while traveling.


All along the lakeshore—gathering
jewels of dusk-time light

from lanterns, from bonfires
and jockeying headlights—

the cottonwoods stilled to a black
entaglio on the sunset, some wind-

smeared clouds above. Music drifts
across the water, ripped and modern.

The last light sits upon the lake.
The wind paints it.

  Carson River

Ranches banked along the river
and alfalfa grew. Horses

grazed the sandy stubble
as rainbirds pointed to

the lonesome existence
of western life; morning

chiaroscuro: cottonwoods
breaking the basin where

hard-looking women drove
sun-worn and tire-bald, old trucks.

  Wild Horses

Even these stymied, powerline poles
can seem like adornments,

inarticulate but sincere,
to these plain and barren hills

with rocky crowns crumbling
from the peaks through these

narrow, breathless passes—the road
running down to dry, white lakes;

empty corrals. Again and again,
everything is shed toward existence,

simple majesty on rock, simple majesty
on hooves, the unbroken successes.


Multi-color pieces of broken glass
illuminate the shoulders. Each pass

marks a repeat on US 6:   a cycle.
Jackrabbits flatten on the asphalt.

The glass sparkles neatly in perspective.
Morning grows in the horizon beyond white

sand and red. Green desert brush and yellow.
Beige foothills. Burgundy mountains.

Decline to incline, each pass marks
a repeat on US 6. Open range and

range cattle. We crossed Nevada in
seven hours. I only had to brake twice.

  Western Utah

Yellow bunches of desert grass
align the highway. The desert

offers its barren expanse:
brown hills and flats, low shrubs.

On US 6 & 50 time stands inchoate,
unchanging. Time and time immemorial,

we reach the flashpoint of our lives
accompanied by dwarf power poles

and a misplaced predilection—
the Siever Lake bed on our left,

the Wah Wahs rising up behind, brown,
dessicant in the mock cloud cover.


As consciousness persuades the strong-of-spirit
toward ranching, alfalfa is irrigated

along the low bluffs above this exceptional river
where cottonwoods crowd the sandy banks—

a shade of green foreign to this country
grows where sage and rabbit brush

have lingered, drifting
toward these yellow foothills

content to rise below white-faced mesas
spotted with dark brush. The mindful

throw up their hands in wonder and praise,
unable to ponder the odd fiber of this existence.


As consciousness persuades the industrious toward
mercantile achievement, the mindful ponder

their sourceless unrest. Their morning starts
in beauty and beauty rubs their chests, rubs

our chests. A thought is carried from man
to daughter and from son to wife:   dragged along

the temporal exchange, a thought is carried
that rubs our chests. She can now return

to the ruined site of what once was
her father's grandfather's short-lived life,

but the stones have moved apart, his enterprise
repealed, his reflections scattered, adrift and

  Wind River

The weary traveler travels with a hope
to find something established or to see a place

and feel assurance in the amenable landscape.
He hopes to disarm that which abrogates

his wanderlust just long enough to rest it.
Rest assignates the weary man who sees

dark clouds ahead and a thick rain
obscuring the afternoon. Longing is a sign

of another desire he might wish to see
revealed:   what prompted this town, what

limits this valley, what passions carried
the trail through here—whose eminence
      should we address?

  Salmon River Courtesy
Snow still retreating slowly from
fissures in the Sawtooth Mountains.

Magnificient, western umbra; dusk
still a long way off; the beauty

immediate. The Salmon River
issues by and sings to us

her long, long song.
July extends its kindness

as cow herds drift on broad,
alluvial pastures—rising calm.

How vaporous my daughters are
as they drift from our sulphur pool.


After a long stretch of incorporeal transition
time will release its obligations as I think—

how deftly I have come to this indelible place
where speed becomes relative to the roadside

swallows and even gravity is hard-put to hold
this road down while traveling with cruise control.

Darling, make a note of this wicked landscape
as those mountains remain our hapless and immediate

destination. Like moths to a porch light we reveal
the weakened nature of our intentions and pursuits.

This land is alluring and its beauty congeals
as a thing we exchange in quick, furtive glances.

  Coffee Shop on the Business Route in an Arid Town

The open road will remind us of many things
some of which are inessential, or unkind toward

the planned itinerary. Still, they take their time
and their place:   consider the young couple behind us,

unmarried, with a small child, getting drunk
at 10:30 am across from the county fairgrounds

where the carnival rides are unfolding; or rather…
the distant sheep, the sagebrush, the hay

baled in a still-green field across this brown valley—
the stalwart waters and regrettable commerce

of machines, plants and mills all seeming to happen
by the lone emigrant grave in a lessened way.

We struggle with what we allow to bother us
and what does not. We tip the waitress and move on.

  Cities Carried Downstream to Eddy and Rest

Made special by that incorporate sheet
on which so much does occur, the river, far,

far upstream, surprises us with its beauty,
grace, and a delicateness which attracts

to its narrow banks other lives of equal delicacy
and grace—light, in late afternoon, warms

and can separate itself to dance upon the water
and shimmer in ways we cannot hope to transgress.

We note the river's softened rocks and the grasses
rising between them, the stunning, broad-leafed plants

and weathered cedar roots, dragonflies feeding
on gnats, trout leaping—the indefatigueable urge
      to wander down and down and down.

  The Morning Light Dispelled by Neon

The cocktail waitress kept bringing me cocktails
and while I wasn't losing, I wasn't winning

either, which—likely—was not key to my ambitions.
The dealer was a stone-faced old hag named Marion

who claimed to prefer the night shift, and was
formerly a lab assistant to a Reno dentist named Rocky.

She complained bitterly of his nocturnal habits
but I loved the way she thanked me for each small tip

placed appropriately on the felt—it was almost
like having fun. Then, the three sisters sat down

and things went unconscionably bad so fast, so
completely, I found myself too weakened to leave.

© 2013 rdking