Roy, New Mexico

On the prairie at sundown,
there’s a diagonal highway where most don’t know
the time of day or distance to the next town.
I’d blown a tire by an oil field
and only had eleven dollars in quarters.

Getting dark when a trucker hauling a Caterpillar
stopped and asked where was I going, I said New Mexico.
The driver offered me a ride,
so we loaded my motorcycle up behind the tractor.
We were taciturn through a long black window night.

Our sun rose over scattered clouds
for another hundred miles
before he dropped me and the green bike off.
Roy, New Mexico at noon had a tire shop and store
where I called Johanna from their pay-phone.

But she wasn’t home
so I signed a work order for a new tire
put the quarters down and left my bike in their bay.
A gruff lady at the store gave me
a bundle of shopping bags
and said Johanna’s place
was an hour past a blue house.

So I started walking toward the blue house.
The old lady had described an adobe cube
on a rock hill with a rough wooden porch around it.
When I got toward the top I hollered at the cube.
But she wasn’t there
and on the other side I saw a wooden shed.
Back around to the front of the adobe,
I opened a plank door to a large window room.

An open interior with a rough kitchen table,
an old wagon bed, a splattered easel
with a haggard panorama, and a window chair
I thought I’d seen somewhere.

The carving underneath said, number 57 by Max Gonzales.
I knew Max from the Voluntary Jail and after pulling it around,
I sat through sunset in an old friend’s chair
as dusk tried to tell me something.
So I went into the kitchen and found her note on the table
saying to go ahead and use her shed
and whatever I could do for food.

Instead I went back to Max’s chair
and fell into a hard dream
about a man in a straw broom ruin
sweeping the same place
over and again till he got it right and died.
The broom multiplied into rows —
then rows into fields of straw brooms.

A New Mexican sun woke me stiff and cold at altitude.

I made and swallowed strong coffee for warmth
till the shadows withdrew
and I went to her shed with a straw broom,
a new shed made from old pieces,
I swept the grime into a corner
and shoveled the pile and wood stove ashes into a bag.
And after hosing everything down
the shed dried by afternoon.

She’d stacked a cord of wood against her house,
I carried an armload of splits into the shed.
An iron bed frame, mattress and rolling chair
were on the back porch.
So I got them into the shed too, found a hammer
and some nails in a kitchen drawer
to make a desk by the door.

By evening my desk and chair
were opposed to the bed in the front.
The wood stove and fuel on the far side.
My first place since Yosemite
and there weren’t any evergreens blocking the sun.
The stove lit easily before I went into her home
returning to the shed with my gear and a wooden box.

Gear was a blue tarp and three Yosemite blankets
wrapped around the weather suit.
Manuscripts were clamped to thin boards.
I unpacked a Robert Caro book on LBJ
along with the fifty brown paper shopping bags.
Spreading the green blanket across my desk,
laid out red pens, a copper ashtray and the paper bags,
also my children’s pictures and some candles.

Overturning the empty box
I put it by the iron bed, lit one of the candles
and made up the bed with two gray blankets.
Laying down on the flat wool, I imagined
sturdy chairs each one better than the one before.
But my shadows had gotten out of hand
till they calmed down with another candle on the desk.
Then I went over to Johanna’s for a beer
came back with a few and a mixed salad.

Leaning back in the chair, I recalled
the poet, Luthor Rollins using a phrase, ‘Moscow Salad’,
which was his way of emptying the refrigerator.
Finishing a beer, I added wood to the coals,
opened another beer
before rolling and lighting a Drum in the shed.

The writing began with smokey queries
crossing the prairie and then it left the questions far behind.
Words scrawled on shopping bags
about a diagonal highway where most don’t know
the time of day or distance to the next town.
I’d blown a tire near an oil field
and spent eleven dollars in quarters
by the time Johanna brought whiskey
and warmth to the iron bed …