Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An Ode to Life Well Lived and Traveled

I have traveled all my life, but mainly in the land of my fathers and mothers, my United States. Here is a poem I wrote to that travel and to....


I used to tramp this land
Like a hobo with a satchel between my feet
Riding a smoking dragon roaring
Over mountain, seeing sky kiss my hands
Then down again, down
Through valleys lush with forest calm
And water wild.

I used to roll through towns
Like one thousand horsemen with spines like spires
And eyes ablaze with coins of amber
To eat the church pipes and gather the strangers
Who, like flags, waved me hello, good-bye, good-bye.

I spent days crossing flatlands made from sun
Conjured by the mind of a god who lay prostrate in wonder
While sagebrush tacked down long gray highways
And sentinel cacti waved arms of warning
To arroyos and wide buttes and wanderers
Who knew no better than attend the event of sunrise.

I sat sleepless in darkness beneath lights, rain puddles turning
In wheels of rainbow
While wind drove men hunched as ogres toward some warm
Place, some safe haven
And silent, mesmerized as any rube, blinked away sleep,
That thief who promised tomorrow would be clear
Be washed new.

I sat on hilltops and stomped through streams
Remembering they would last longer than I
Last longer than you
Last until time plinked down the hourglass
One dribble drop at a go.

Shadows of giants swathed me 'round
Storm threw me panicked into miles distant with promise of deeper mystery.
Aspens shook and pines bowed
Cane shivered as rivers rushed maniacally to sea.
All the while I drank like a drunkard, shook myself,
My hands, my head, that any of it really existed
Or that I was there to witness.

I loved it, the rich land, more than even the universe
Dead and empty and waiting
Because it gave back whatever asked of it
It cried out I Am
Like a child just born to scream at the world.

I couldn’t own it; it was fleeting.
It was mine to embrace as a lover, merely--
Met and soon left behind in the dust
Of memory-- that wayward spirit, kindred but swift.
Left behind, I left it, for the next passenger
On the whirlwind train of life,
Intrepid and hungering for a land unbound,
To eat the mountains
To taste the waters
To lap the sunshine hiding between the foggy tops of red bluffs.

I used to tramp this land
With love so great you couldn't hold it with one million cupped hands.
You couldn't speak of it without thunder bursting.
You couldn't keep it down or wrap it in paper
Or prick it with question without bringing blood.

It lives beyond us
Until the stars wink with backward glance
And the solar system cools from a boil.
It takes us all, one day, beneath it in cool darkness and forever-time,
That land where I walked and lived and dreamed,
Where I tramped
Like a vagabond with a satchel between my feet.

Billie Sue Mosiman, February 18, 2014