The holes he would describe might be eyes,
they might be mouths—like cracks in the lake—
There were voices, the world sung into being.
Seed-flecks, flax or cottonwood, or— wheel against the sky,
invisible at first, then, if only belated, in its repeated possession
this chorus smoothed-over in rings vaguely dimpled.
If his body would be the mouth,
if the road would be its tongue, out of the earth,
out of the sky, it is a latch unhitched,
a line, drawn across a broad, flat, plain.
June 23d, 1827, NE 35 Miles. We filled our horns and
continued on our course passing some verry salt springs and leaving on
the north a considerable plain.
The pavement divides.
The causeway itself veers into the dawn, eastbound,
now cut from its moorings, now loose, and now,
in one scissored motion, it closes.
Just before night I found water that was drinkable but continued
on in hopes of finding better and was obliged to encamp without any.
This comfortable heat of paint against skin,
a familiar light, morning in the angles, pooled
against the dark hem of the mountains
and the pelicans—circling now, stitching
(if the road would be its tongue,
now asleep on its shoulder)
as if they had been sewn in.
I sink into the field of the hood of the car,
to rest—as if they would be seamstresses.
There is a hole in the sky,
a new surface upon which to draw.
June 24th NE 40 Miles. I started verry early in hopes of soon
finding water, but the view ahead was nearly hopeless. Ascending a
high point I could discern nothing
but sandy plains and dry Rocky hills.
Driving east from the City at dusk
into the continent, the night dark, redolent of sage,
I slept in the dirt at the side of the road, briefly,
and woke. It is still dark.
With our best exertion we pushed forward, walking as we had been
for a long time, over the soft sand.
Again: driving east off the long, sloping shawl of the Sierra
Nevada, the sun rises in my face out of the road.
Now, out of the shimmering—
We were obliged to stop on the side of a hill under the shade of
a small cedar. We dug holes in the sand and laid down in them for the
purpose of cooling our heated bodies.
As if it had been layered into the sand itself,
some thought spoken, some incantation, like a hook.
And I, now in it,
this long crossing, this Great Salt Flats, like a skin,
leaning back, a slight straightening in the bones,
in the lowest of vertebra, as if to cup some small word—
for tormented nature made us dream of things we had not and
for the want of which we might perish in the desert unheard of—
And I, unraveling now,
an unplying of the spine, a thread
drawn through the eyelet of this body, opening, (if only belated)
(in its repeated possession)
(the murmur of falling waters still sounding in our ears)
(I know this place).
hoofprints provide evidence of the location and direction of movement.
Salt Lake. Green River. Rock Springs.
I watch the shorebirds, the gulls, the terns, and I think,
I was lucky. I did not sleep.
The highway drifts east into the Rockies.
Jedediah Smith crossed here.
This horizon. Cumulus.
Later: Rawlins. Laramie. Cheyenne.
June 25th. The sun of this day, when morning came, arose
over the parched waste, over the desolate waste, its floods of light,
now gleaming in the sun.
As if the road would be its tongue,
and these would be its lips—
this ancient lake—(this speaking and this listening)—
(drawn over this space)—as if the story—
in search of passage, through, by waterway,
or, by grace, sewn in, might wake, or—
It is sunrise—
(as through the eyelet of this body)
a thin, black line, (opening now), drawn into floods of light
to wait, at the shimmering, at the verge, to wake—
as if something had been lost—
as if something had been promised—
We press the palms of our hands into the salt,
in the shape of wings, to mark the beginning.
There are grains of color, of lavender and blue
in crystals, like snow—gleaming, gleaming—