Coyote Mercury

words, birds and whatever else by James Brush

Tag: highway sky draft poems (page 1 of 3)

These are early drafts of some of the poems that are found in my 2016 collection of road poems Highway Sky

North through Fog

Hypnotizing wheels rumble the empty
space between night and dawn.

A world transformed—
grey ocean resting on the plains
deep, impenetrable, broken ghosts
signs manifest mysterious
and vanish.

Punk rock radio,
sonic wind, pushing ever outward,
a star core against the smothering
pressure of staying.

Silencing fog—infinite escape
routes when all directions
are equal.

Roads disappear into the mist,
curtained destinies: farm and field;
town and school; fast food
off ramp, neon light—

Wichita Falls.

A summer re-run of sorts. I posted a very early draft of this back in 2006 and kept tinkering on and off over the years. It was eventually published by The Houston Literary Review in February 2011. Sadly, they seem to have disappeared. Such is the way of the internet and its e-journals, I suppose. Anyway, here ’tis. I’ll post the other poem of mine that they were kind enough to publish in the coming days.

Toward Home

I drag my tired, sweating body high up Enchanted Rock, gaze out through the wind at what surely thrilled even the Comanche in their wildest cowboy fighting days. From this rock in the sky, I can see the ancient highway binding the horizons. I remember oceans on each end, all the stories written in the asphalt and the sky between. Civilization so long gone, only the old man in the ranger’s hat remembers anything but vultures, yet home lies just over that hill, down that endless road.

And with a prose poem, that’s the end of another year of napowrimo. I managed to write poetry every day: 22 small stones and 12 long poems including 2 ghazals, 1 pantoum and 2 prose poems. I’ll write something more reflective of the experience in the next few days, but for now I’m happy I managed to do this.

Now for a shameless plug: the paperback edition of my book is still on sale at Amazon through the end of the month, which is only a few more hours.

Most Beautiful Thing

US 290 East

Most Beautiful Thing

highway, the highway, oh beautiful thing
flowing under a circling sky
our son asleep, eastbound
wildflower spring, old prairie towns

flowing under a circling sky
blackland prairie, gnarled oaks
wildflower spring, old prairie towns
cedar along barbed wire fence rows

blackland prairie, gnarled oaks
long rolling hills, windblown grass
cedar along barbed wire fence rows
speeding trucks, dusty roads

long rolling hills, windblown grass
our son asleep, eastbound
speeding trucks, dusty roads
highway, the highway, oh beautiful road

This is inspired by Fiona Robyn’s new novel The Most Beautiful Thing. Since I’m doing napowrimo, I figured I’d use it as a prompt for today since this is the day Fiona is blogsplashing the book by offering the Kindle version for free. I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve read her novel Thaw, which I enjoyed very much.

She Didn’t Think It Would Go that Fast

shrieking joy and fire, hair
snaking out the window, racing
parking garage curves
carbon monoxide hellsmoke fumes
tires screech pedestrians,
shorebound sailors, mostly
jump from her maniac path,
cursing the admiral’s
daughter, her giant car,
the course she charted
over asphalt and down
to the drunken shore
down shore drunken
stars sailing overhead
sunrise sunrise bubbling
up from the Atlantic, filling
her blonde hair, again, with fire
smoldering laughter, spark
the curves of the road, her
body shaking joy and flame
foot on the gas, all the way

Roadside Attractions

The desert stretches its paws in endless forevers.

Vultures and hawks circle overhead
eyeing ruined billboards advertising
diners gone since the seventies.

Echoes of the ancient world tumble
over rock, spill down through time.
Coyotes call those who never come,
hang up when no one answers.

This billion year old ocean sea still can drown,
though the water now just floats as clouds.

I walk from my car, leave it unlocked.
I walk over scrub grass desperate for water.
I walk toward rocks painted by ancient hands.
I walk over fish, seaweed, dinosaurs, meteorites.
I walk into time made visible, layered and worn.
I walk until sunset when stars begin to burn my skin.

I get in the car, drive to the next town,
find a motel and watch a ballgame on TV.

I’m attempting NaPoWriMo again. As usual only stones on the weekends. This year I also plan to write about one poetry collection per week, probably on Fridays. Let the madness begin.

Highway Skies

There was a time when film was too expensive.
In those days, we used words scrawled
on fast food wrappers, creased maps and memory.

The cars ran on gasoline and explosions.
The phones were tethered to wires,
but we weren’t tethered to anything.

The highways stretched forever.
Nobody knew what was on the other end.

Not the maps of the ancient conquistadors
nor the atlases of the highway cartographers
could show us the ten thousand things
we needed to see for ourselves.

This is one I’ve been kicking around a while.

In other news, mark Stratton gave a nice quick review of Birds Nobody Loves. He interviewed me for his blog too and that should be appearing in the near future. Thanks, mark!

East in Winter

The sky is the east
bound highway. Winter
trees hold hawks.

How many miles
can we run
without radio?

The engine fades,
the rumble of the road,
its hypnosis.

Weave in and out
between trucks.
There’s more freeway

as much ahead
as behind.

Canyon de Chelly

Indian drums, pounding
heartbeats for paying tourists,
ripple the fabric of our tent.

Night falls slow, drums fade—
dreams of bears and annotated
histories of faded dangers.

In the morning, woodsmoke and coffee,
the whooshing collapse of tents,
engines mumbling readiness.

We drive the rim and hike
down to the White House Ruins,
trailing fingers along the stone.

I look through my camera,
searching for what Ansel Adams found
in those Anasazi lines.

I struggle to compose his vision
in my viewfinder while Navajo men
sell dream catchers, chuckling as they watch.

This is an older one that had been sitting around the hard drive for a while. This week has not been conducive to poetry writing. Too much hectic and not enough sit and think. There might be a few more oldies this week. Hopefully, next week (if not later this week) I’ll be able to write again. I am still doing a poem-a-day over at a gnarled oak, but I was already doing that anyway.

Thanks to the kind folks over at the NaPoWriMo site who listed Coyote Mercury as the featured site back on April 17. Just in time for me to take a few days off. Oh well, one can always keep trying.

All the Way

Asphalt miles vanish beneath ever-thinning treads.
Sometimes a truck passes and the car trembles.
The truck fades, a memory in the rearview mirror,
and in that distance behind us, we see freedom.

In the miles between radio stations, voices crackle
from Mexico from Flagstaff, islands in a static soundtrack.
The lines on the map folded on the dash become
highways through the desert, the smile on your lips.

From pine-shrouded campgrounds to painted ruins,
roadside motels to cars, wrecked and rusting in the desert,
and in the night-crashing waves of the western shore,
we learn the meaning of these secret messages:

rhythm of wheels, music of static, your hand on my knee,
the elegant whisper of trucks traveling the other way.

Roadside Artifact

Along a southeast Texas highway, alone in a field, a missile points into a blue sky from behind a screen of trees, their lower trunks blackened in a perfect line by Hurricane Ike’s saltwater surge. The missile’s joints are rusted and whatever markings may once have identified it and warned away godless commies and damned Yankees are long faded leaving behind a tattered egret-white coat of peeling paint. No identifying information lurks at the base unless it’s been swallowed by the grasses of the coastal plain, which in a less droughty spring would now be alive with the ten thousand shades of a wildflower revolution.

a rusted missile
aimed toward the springtime sky
windblown prairie grass

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