You study me from the shotgun seat
making me squirm so I point to a cow
scratching her back against a telephone pole
with obvious bovine pleasure. Evening gives
Nevada a beauty it lacks when bright and hot.
We from the dripping green coast of California
might never fit here but love passing
where somehow life makes a different sense.
A longhorn beast blocks us, munches
grass from cracks in pavement.
I stop the van. We step out.
You’re gazing at me, not the munching cow
or the oncoming night of white clouds, charcoal sky
in silence made more so by the chirping of
a single cricket. We’re driving back roads to Boston
for jobs we don’t want but ought to try
for career, for good sense in a stone cold city.
Black-eyed susans line the lane like a fence.
I need to pee. Aim at some rocks
as it would seem a crime to pee on
flowers especially with you watching as you are.
“I might be pregnant,” you say. Your face, always lit,
by starlight brighter still. No breeze and yet
the telephone wires are singing, ringing.
Across the sky comes an orange flare,
too fast for a jet. I have time to say “Look!”
Silently the meteorite explodes, red fragments
dropping like stars toward earth.
“I sort of knew,” I say.
The moon appears from behind a mountain
silhouetting individual pines, a glow
advancing from tree to tree as it rises along the ridge.
We don’t care if that cow stays forever.
“Thank you, Lucy,” you whisper toward the beast
who in truth has no name but an ear tag.
Without a word we W-turn the awkward van
forward, back, forward, back on the narrow lane
and drive westward, drive home.
Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit. His latest book is Foggy Dog: Poems of the Pacific Coast. He’s a pretty good carpenter and a crackerjack grandfather in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. joecottonwood.com