The new road runs along the old road. I can see it
still imprinted on the earth, not twenty feet away
as I drive west past silos and farmsteads, fruit stands and hogs.
Once in Kansas, I stood in a field and watched
the stars on the horizon revolve around my ankles.
People are always moving, even those standing still
because the world keeps changing around them, changing them.
When will the cities meet? When will they spread until
there is a single city—avenue to avenue, coast to coast?
What we call "the country" is an undeveloped area
by the side of the road. There is no "country," there is no "road."
It's one big National Park, no longer the wilderness it was.
But the old world exists under the present world
the way an original painting exists under a newer one.
The animals know: their ancient, invisible trails cross
and re-cross our own like scars that have healed long ago.
Their country is not our country but another place altogether.
Anything of importance there comes out of the sky.
In Amarillo the wind tries to erase everything, even the future.
It swoops down to scrape the desert clean as a scapula.
Here among bones and bleached arroyos the sun leans
through my window at dawn to let me know
I'm not going anywhere. There's no more anywhere to go.
A man spends his whole life fishing in himself
for something grand. It's like some lost lunker, big enough
to break all records. But he's only heard rumors, myths,
vague promises of wonder. He's only felt the shadow
of something enormous darken his life. Or has he?
Maybe it's the shadow of other fish, greater than his,
the shadow of other men's souls passing over him.
Each day he grabs his gear and makes his way
to the ocean. At least he's sure of that: or is he? Is it the ocean
or the little puddle of his tears? Is this his dinghy
or the frayed boards of his ego, scoured by storm?
He shoves off, feeling the land fall away under his boots.
Soon he's drifting under clouds, wind whispering blandishments
in his ears. It could be today: the water heaves
and settles like a chest. . . He's not far out.
It's all so pleasant, so comforting--the sunlight,
the waves. He'll go back soon, thinking: "Maybe tonight."
Night with its concealments, its shadow masking all other shadows.
Night with its privacies, its alluringly distant stars.