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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life

Trying to Get Home Sept 13, 2001
by Jean C. Howard ||
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As I travel across
the United States
flags flicker at half-mast
like the tongues
of undone mothers

Rivers, deep and green
hold out wet hands
and cradle the bridges
that span them
Cliffs that crowd
the road
shiver with the jade
of Georgia pine

As I travel across

Cities slip by
terrified of their own
feeling the asphalt
of their beings being shaken
to the very core
These giants of America

Huge mammals of commerce
roar down the highways
beasts of provision
for every town
nudging roads borders
from dawn to dawn's morrow
Bones made of miles
and all that surrounds them

Travelling across
the United States
fields flow by
islands of corn bristling
with flames
of yellow fruit

Sunflowers splatter
the roadside
screaming their codes
of gold
On hills cut in azure
monuments against sky
become one man's
the dark silhouettes
of our fertility

Moving across America
flags flowing half-mast
or rippling from the backs
of Harleys
mark the hours passing
the lifting up of millions
dressed and mobilized
passing as they mount
the hour of noon

Trees gobble
the spongy soil
of river banks
and witness the first splotch
of passing
the crimson of autumn
played over and over again
the tumbling down
the startled breath
the blessing of leaves
on the prairie floor

Quietly across America
when dusk falls
rain weeps gently
onto goldenrod crowding
the sky to be cleansed
to feel the small sting
of each drop
gently, gently
washing down daylight
into the soil trenches
of America

Where the ghosts
of silos stand
in a far far place
from the roadside
Mist making elms
into armies of undead
marching the march
of righteousness

Storming the plains
where barns stand
sentinel against cottonwoods
and hills are studded
with huge bolts
of hay
Marching the march
of anger wrapped
within a rain cloud
the frenzied beat
of the thunderous heart
of America

And when that anger
the tremendous call
of all winds
the monstrous howl
of mothers
feeling their sons
slip away from them
of fathers hearing
their daughters call
out before plummeting
down into the dark
soils of the earth

That pouring down
that knows
no end
beating on the skin
of every hour
on grass stalks
with silver heads
leaning to the ground

On lakes
whose flesh
shimmer platinum
against the rain
This howl that spreads
across America


After midnight
onto Cheyenne
the night explodes
with stars
the constellations
of tractor trailers
pulled off the highway
the dizzy mix
of planets peppering
the sky
the huge orbits
of headlights tipping
down the hillsides
of Wyoming

In Wyoming
after midnight
black is a texture
is a scent
of rivers rising
is a thickness
no car can penetrate
by the dashes
of white reflective
highway threading
us onward
to the other side

When the mists
of the West sweep
across the asphalt
outlines and shapes become
become prayer
Only the white
line can carry you

Detached in a cloud
like a dream
that knows the way
you move slowing onward
beyond disbelief
beyond the blurry
numbness of fear

As a thread
of hope
that pulls you
to that which is safe
which girdled by sagebrush
leads you
through America

Dawn crawls up
sand mesas
of the American Great West
and seeps down through
juniper the color
of blue stone

Clouds are small
lilac cheeks
on the horizon
like the face
of a young child after
a deep cry


When sun lays down
its iron
scoring the scrub oak
of boulders
each crag harboring
the stuffed bonnets
of eagles nests
where fierce fingers
of millenniums have carved
out cliffs to harbor
hooves of antelope, moose,
of wheat-colored deer
This ruddiness of iron
leaps up
into mountains
Huge fists of resolve
across America

Into fresh daylight
I look out across
damp valleys
to see hills rise
mystical and calm
in their certainty
to see streams lay
gentle fingers
like a woman's
through the grasses

To feel that I am close
And beloved
by this great girth of
To know that I will
soon be home.

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