Five Hundred Miles to Home
Out below the San Francisco Peaks
I stand where, from the steep snow field, a brittle,
Abrading wind careens past razor rocks,
Through needled crowns of broken pines that mottle
Gray, frozen sky, assaulting the last dim light
Of icy day, and I am numb in the wind's bite.
Side-swiped there at high speed, I almost rolled.
Incredibly our mirrors hit, and we
Were swept across the black-skinned stretch of road.
Gouged turf threw us back to the slick highway,
Where I slipped like a blade on a long strop,
Until I shook and rattled to a hard stop.
As I shiver here in frosty twilight
My heart, shocked, races in survival mode,
And my cheeks are pierced by icepick sleet.
Dark treadmarks say I'm lucky I'm not dead,
And as sharp, frozen stiletto thrusts increase,
I make another call to the police.
The Hopi ladies who hit me are stunned
By the impact of speeding vehicles.
They say the setting sun had left them blind,
When turning fortune seized our steering wheels
And sent us streaking through the pebbled sand
Into a vast, yawning uncertainty,
A sudden lurch of quick mortality.
The squad car comes, the trooper writes us up
And leaves us there in the raw, surging wind.
We take our leave out here. The ladies slip
Away in the sinking daylight, but I just stand
Awhile, breathing the needled frost, and stare
Across that gray abyss of freezing air.
From the red glass of old volcanic fields,
From whirring stands of ponderosa pine
Swaying in vast Coconino woods,
Ancient mountain spirits scour the scene,
And I, spared by them, turn my car key,
And follow the black snake to Albuquerque,
Then to Santa Fe, and by the midnight moon,
Broken only by dark wisps of errant cloud,
I scatter remnants of fine, frozen rain
Across blank solitudes of vacant road.
Old wiper blades scrape thin ground-spray clean,
And I look forward to my warm, dry bed,
Where, stretched out next to my sleeping wife,
I'll slumber at the fragile edge of life.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Bob Zisk would be
pleased to hear them.