Published on Academy of American Poets (

Passing Through Albuquerque

At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing "The Mississippi Sawyer" inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.


From Words for My Daughter. Copyright © 1991 by John Balaban. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Bos 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271. All rights reserved.


John Balaban

John Balaban is the author of several books of poetry, including Path, Crooked Path (Copper Canyon Press, 2006); Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1997), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award; and Words for My Daughter (Copper Canyon Press, 1991), winner of the National Poetry Series.

Date Published: 1991-01-01

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