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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.
On Happy Jack Road
the great wind turbines, like apocalyptic herons,
big-beaked birds that eat everything,
even the sky, sweep across the highway.
They stand so close to the shoulder
the shadows of their hungry legs
cut our path to pieces:
swooosh! in front, the road ahead sectioned;
swooop! behind, at the bumper, the past receding,
portioned out to orphan-memories.
But we know better, don’t we?
It’s all oil and gas in Wyoming,
roughnecks and roustabouts, in a state where
most of a town’s treasure is in pumpjacks.
I sit behind a pickup heading out Wind River way,
or to Rawlins, and he has a sticker on the crew cab
that says, Paid for by Oil & Gas.
The wind holds its tongue until the early morning,
when it moans across sagebrush flats,
three days straight, gusting to fifty.
It has tried to tell us, shoring snow,
snorting and kicking dirt like an unbroke pony:
sometimes you can’t tell the difference
between what you are
and what you think you are.
I should know, gripping the wheel of my own truck
on Happy Jack Road,
eight years a homeowner, black coffee on the terrace,
watching the sun in its tight circle.
Yes, you know better, says the Laramie wind.
This was always you,
the past peeling off behind like ropeburn skin,
the blacktop slipping under these spinning tires
Every morning, I take my temperature
with a digital thermometer I stick in my ear:
there’s a nasty bug going around,
and I try to stay ahead of these things.
My left ear is warmer.
I favor my cool right ear, a full nine degrees
below what they tell us is normal.
Somewhere between these two extremes,
the outer limits of left and right,
I imagine a sun
like a bright yolk in the vacuum
of my galaxial head,
space and not gray matter,
and a succession of planets.
You live on the most beautiful blue pearl
in a broad, righteous orbit.
You send out signals into the void,
telling us of magical trees,
your love of animals, falling water.
Some of your messages reach the right ear,
the cold one, where a few drifting bodies
collect in the ice belt,
like homeless men around a grate.
They’ve just heard
that they are no longer considered planets,
perhaps no longer even a part
of this distant sun’s system.
I hear their voices when I untie myself
into sleep, on my right side.
They listen to news of your impossible oaks,
cascades that make men weep,
the mothering whisper of the wild,
a lullaby they might hear just this once,
this winter-shortened night.