ROADS TO NOWHERE
(after reading the New Zealand poet James K. Baxter’s “The Bay”
“I remember the bay that never was”
Nowhere is a stringent place,
on a map more real than a six foot grave.
Trig points spike the routes
where Hansel forgot the string
where all roads lead to gingerbread houses
where only murderers bide.
I’ve travelled that road so often
that its map folded into my brain,
nowhere is traced and copied,
to terra incognita and back again.
Baxter, your “bay that never was”
filled with spiders and overgrown weeds,
forgotten carvings of pain and loss.
My road that never was
came from nowhere born
to nowhere gone.
BORN BY A RIVER
Sam and Otis, I was too.
Le Fourche, “The Fork”
mud and froth, like milky coffee in a roadside diner,
French Voyageurs’ portage.
Moving ever since, river and me,
like an uprooted cottonwood.
Knowing rivers don’t live forever,
they dry up, shrink, thicken into oxbows.
I also disprove old Heraclitus,
by “stepping into the same river twice”,
when it finally comes round,
ice-melt flood, lapping my back door.
Then roaring away to the furthest sea.
Maybe becoming cloud and rain,
but flowing home, like me,
to the source again.
Rough Guide to Iran, 1976
The bus stalled by a dry creek bed,
under a spume of shooting stars.
Owls queried our squatting rights,
dogs barked at bandit shots.
Those were biblical foothills,
old, but we were too young for dread
as dogs grew silent, the night went dead.
Drivers went prayerful, faced East
but dawn came at last
as we all dared go out to piss,
women’s skirts spread out like cactus flowers.
The driver’s malevolence was melted
by Neil Young’s rock mantra on tape.
The bus rumbled over deserts,
leaving last night somewhere out there,
dying in its own twilight.
We were heading East, if not toEden,
at least to a less troubled garden.