My mother was almost gone that fall,
when a place called Mule Hollow
took my motorcycle over the edge.
My wreckage got sold to a Durango Mormon.
Then a Mormon couple hired me as their evening dishwasher,
between forklift days stacking in a warehouse
and late nights sleeping in a radio station.
Needing transportation, I bought another hat
and walked to the edge of Durango.
Right away, Alvin saw me on the side of the road
and gave me a ride over the Wolf Creek Pass,
to another faded Water Buffalo in Guymon, Oklahoma.
Agreeing to buy Alvin’s motorcycle,
I paid it off driving a corn truck in Liberal, Kansas,
for a struggling grower who was maimed and broken by debt —
and kept farming from his crutches.
Back in Guymon once more,
Alvin’s documents were delayed,
which got me drinking beer in a bar.
Off to the side, a few sleeveless guys,
shooting stripes and solids,
kept going back and forth to the bathroom for cocaine.
They laughed at me as an Amish biker
in a place where it’s “What’s wrong with you?”
Should have just paid the goddamned tab;
instead, said I’d farmed in California
before doing a little writing and buying Alvin’s motorcycle.
They backed me into a corner
and called me an “undercover asshole.”
I bounced a blue ball off a guy’s head
and left the Panhandle on the second Buffalo with dangerous tags.
Ball bounced kind of wrong in Guymon.
The second Buffalo ran well in the dark into Kansas.
After Helen and Moses beat me at cards at midnight,
my father called and told me about my mother’s coma.
I abandoned my children at noon.
The first hundred miles were clear skies,
till towering clouds arranged wind and snow
on the eight hundred miles to Flagstaff.
Coming down from the mountains,
my right-hand exhaust loosened
on a long, rough, gravel road —
and the weather warmed in the desert.
An hour later, along the Highway 10,
truck mechanics made straps to seal the cracks.
Furthermore, John, my attorney,
paid the bill and took me to lunch
at the Café of Both Marias.
A few hours later, I was tired …
fueled, and repaired across the Mojave.
A strap snapped, and I lost the whole
pipe — end over end — on another gravel road.
Climbing out of the desert into the mountains;
then back down into Bakersfield.
Explosive engine noise rebounding off the overpasses;
right-side flames singeing my clothes
through the bitter night fog to the Fresno closing.
My father stepped out of the room where his father died,
saying my mother didn’t have much of a future.
She died hour after hour, just past midnight —
on their forty-second anniversary.
A few whiskey bottles and nights passed,
before we gathered by the hole in the ground —
a family around a mother of eight, with one dead and one away.
Filling in the grave, I recalled
my mother and sister on softly curving rides —
year after year, ride after ride, across sunlit afternoons
water runs, cattle shacks, and shady trees — as the hole got filled …