Saddle Ridge

Two boys ride their bikes
from one corner to another across the north field.
The realtor had told us a local church owned the land.
It’ll never be built on, she promised.
And at least for now it hasn’t been: a vacant rag-and-bone lot,
God-made for weekend racing.

The boys are maybe ten…twelve?
They fly off the field too fast to compare.
Nothing in their lives will ever again be this uncomplicated —
the gentle slope of it, the trail rubbed to hardtack,
the blood oath company of boys,
and down the block, a pirate map of streets
with names like Campfire, Horse Soldier, Medicine Man.
Familiar home-ended streets.

Years from now, too many years to see,
when they’re a little worn themselves,
and divorced in one way or another from their deep contentment,
this will seem like saving,
a possible grace.
Mild October, the air whistling and racing,
and their sharp shouting rising
like seagulls on a sunlit sea.

Wyoming Border, Bison

I drive late, going north,
winds so strong out of the foothills
you’ll see eighteen-wheelers
tossed on their sides in the median.
One or two at least, before we make the border,
snow bleaching the Front Range.

The very dead of winter now,
like the chaplain said.

Where our headlights empty,
the stations of my commute drift by:
Carr, Owl Canyon, Buckeye Road,
and the electric shock of the great plains:
they train astronauts in Wyoming,
folks who feel at ease in our cold, cold spaces.

On a high ridge, before the Welcome sign,
a rancher has erected the silhouette of a bison,
knocked together with two-by-fours,
blank, branding even the grass.
And below it, the real animals move
like shades in the underworld,
dozens of them, shrugging off the squall
that’s closed the highway from Casper to Wheatland,
closed the 80 west, all the way to Rawlins.

We’ve brought them back, the bison,
to say goodbye.

My hands itch to touch the coarse mat of their hair,
to finger the frost-crust on the crown
of their siegehammer heads,
the ears that may
have finally stopped listening
to everything we loved, to everything we feared,
to everything we said.

Suburbs, Cheyenne

Whatever happened to Kimi, I wonder?
The kid across the canyon from us
in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.
We never saw him when he wasn’t making surfboards,
their white and yellow stripes
bright as Christmas wrapping.

I’m not sure he even surfed,
but a builder, in his garage,
sure hands laying fiberglass on polyurethane foam.

In southern California folks ease
Buicks and VWs into carports
after doing time on the Santa Monica Boulevard,
and when they take them out,
dreams attach.
They come spooling like coaxial cable.

It takes me back, these corn maze sidewalks
on Saddle Ridge: block after block,
the perfume of someone’s laundry
side-venting into the street,
tidied lives, tapped up, tucked up
against one another.

And how I love them in retrospect, the way
I love big data, the sprawl off Highway 80,
close enough to smell sweet-crude,
Emerald City winking of refinery towers,
turrets topped with flame.
There are football stadiums
that hold more people than this city does.
We’re in the nose-bleeds:
by the school house dark,
a night-shift cop, cruiser gone.
House dark, shades down, house dark, another.

But then blazing, on a leatherette couch
where the garage door would be, some guy
with a video console, eyes fixed like a ferret’s
his eight or nine-year-old brother
on the lawn with an electric gun
flashing pinball lights, gunning me.
Yeah, you got me, kid.
But I’m a poet.
I got you first.