HEADING WEST: 1971
We drove out of the Appalachians
Out of that dense green and those close horizons
Into the Midwest, open and vacant
Where the roads never turned, but like some ocean
Followed the curvature of the Earth
In Kansas, the newly turned soil
Was black as wet coffee grounds
And then the Rocky Mountains
Gigantic and distant
The air was lighter here
And carried the scents, light and medicinal
From plants we had never known
And a thousand tiny, desert cacti.
Who knew that a sky could be so blue?
Or that those mountains there in the west
A hundred miles away
Would hold snow all summer?
In the mornings the mountains were gold
And shimmered in the distance like some mirage
In the evenings, they were tinted with rose
And seemed to float above the real world
Before then we had not known the quiet of the desert evenings
When all sound was absorbed into the opened pores of Earth
Or the night sky white with starlight
So bright we drove on those empty roads
With the headlights turned off.