On the Road to Colorado, Day 3

After a massive rain storm hemmed us hotel guests in last night, preventing any extensive exploration of the area (not that there was a terribly large amount to see, from the look of things—barring some sort of children’s fort dedicated to Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show), morale for the Nebraska leg of my journey was not particularly high. After a few drinks at the hotel’s bar with a few of my fellow patrons (apparently drunk people, locked in by rain, occasionally enjoy a writer!) and a power sleep, though, I discovered two amazing things.

  1. Quality Inn, for all its talk of water conservation, did not have a low-flow shower, and that meant the shower was fantastic.
  2. Quality Inn does not skimp on its breakfast. Trays of tater tots, bacon, and ham; bowls of fruit; cartons of milk; a fine array of cereal. There was even eggs, for those of you silly creatures that can partake of such things. Personally, I loaded up on bacon, toast, OJ, and a bowl of fruit loops (you know, for my health). Breakfast of champions? I think so.

After that, I undertook the final leg of this journey…

Today’s journey began in North Platte, Nebraska. From there, I traveled 270 miles in about 4 hours (for once, the time Google and Tom Tom actually told me it would take…though my version of the trip included stops and photo look-abouts, so I still win) to Golden, Colorado.

Nebraska:

It occurred to me that I forgot two very important things to the Nebraska experience that fortunately still applied on the third day of this trip. To truly understand Nebraska, you must expect:

  1. Bugs. You don’t even know. Huge bugs. Lots of bugs. Machine gun bug massacre on my windshield level of bugs. For God’s sake, in my hotel, they even had a sign saying, “So we spray for bugs, but the bugs win—expect them in your hotel room, and it’s not our fault!” which I must say is very distressing.
  2. Construction. I thought Michigan loved construction, but Nebraska has (literally) 12 miles stretches of highway down littered in those orange cones, and the dreaded 35 mph speed limits. Get behind a semi there, and you’re pretty well doomed to the waiting game. And what a long, terrible waiting game it is…because the scenery surely won’t save you.

Back to the descriptions, though, the road bloomed in darkness and in rain clouds on the third day of the trip…spat a few globs of rain at me, and then went on to being just a grey haze. And let me tell you, if anything can make the Nebraska experience a little more uncomfortable instead of the same old blue sky on those same old green plains, it’s adding a grey cast to the whole affair. There weren’t even layers of clouds to break it up…it was just one continues grey slab.

Colorado:

First thoughts: Hills! Sweet and holy changes in elevation! AND NO CORN!

Quickly replaced by: Oh, God. Where did the hills go? It’s…it’s even more dead than Nebraska. Seriously, words cannot begin to describe—it was the lonely, barren prairie you see in all those classy westerns. To truly appreciate how dry it is here, observe:

 

The first picture is the Platte River, from North Platte, Nebraska. The second image is the Platte River, as seen in Sterling, Colorado. Yes, note the distinct lack of actual water there. Oh dears.

Kiwanis Cove

Speaking of Sterling, though, I stopped there to refuel, hit the rest area, and poke around the local nature area, as I was informed my brother and sister-in-law wouldn’t be about in Golden until 5…and I still had another hour’s time change to go through (Colorado is 2 hours behind Michigan, by the by). I got some pretty shots around “Kiwanis Cove”…and then I met some dogs.

Yes, dogs. A pair of wild dogs. They just, appeared out of the trees, lowered their heads, growled, and started to advance. Experiencing an, “Oh, crap” moment, I started to jog in the opposite direction. Naturally, they quickly overtook me. Curiously, they seemed content with me as long as I jogged. When I stopped—they growled, in the I’m-going-to-eat-your-face sort of way. When construction workers caught their attention though, I’m not ashamed to say I bolted the rest of the way to the car. Then I hit the road and tried to forget Sterling. Goodness.

After that, though, it was sparse towns. Eastern Colorado was even worse than Nebraska for finding gas. They actually had signs for towns that read, simply, “No services” – none, none at all. And though you had the continuous feeling of rising, the barren expanse about me made me eventually go, “Where’d the corn go? Bring back the corn!”

And the temperature was a thing to behold. In Sterling, still at about Nebraska’s elevation, it was 72 degrees. I swear I crossed like two rises and suddenly it shot up to 86…and kept jumping until Denver, for a total of about 93 degrees. Closer to the sun. Oh yeah.

Obviously, though, I made it (and the barren fortunately transformed into those mountains I do so love), and so now, this is essentially my back yard…

Win.

Poetic Spotlight: Let America Be America Again

Langston Hughes, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we’re trying a little something new (with a little something old) here at the Waking Den. Every Thursday I’ll be doing my best to sift through my library (yes, I’m 22 and I would say I’ve got a good start on a library going) for some of the great works by classic poets – both known, and unknown – to bring before your eyes. Some will be personal favorites. Some will not. All will be here for your benefit, put forth, archived, and ready and waiting for any of your discussions of these immortalized poetic greats.

Today, we kick off the affair with something hardly “lightweight” in subject matter – Langston Hughes’s powerful “Let American Be America Again”. It packs a punch, as a forewarning, as well it should – it speaks to matters many would wish to forget, or to sweep under a rug and keep out of sight, at the least. It speaks of freedom and equality – critiques and hopes, longing–it rings out in a voice that echoes through the ages…and works as such are rarely gentle. Enjoy.

“Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again!”

By the Sea

At the Beach

It’s been a while, and a long weekend to boot. In sum: got some sun, traipsed some beaches, wondered and waxed philosophic and photographic somewhere between the trees and the waves, and tasted of the delicious sensation known as BBQ. It was a long weekend, but a good one, and I can honestly say it was the most relaxing I’ve had a good long while, even if I was still running all over the place.

I get the wanderlust, you know?

Big Red

C’est la vie, though, as they say. To those Americans among my readership, here’s hoping the fourth of July (the USA’s Independence Day, for those of you not up-to-the-know on your history of the land of the stars and stripes) was a delightful blend of summer warmth and rapturous relaxation with those you hold most dear. Plus, if you got to see some of the shiny explosions that were lighting up the country’s night sky, all the more power to you.

What’s the night without a little boom? Whether it’s a spiritual or a physical or even a metaphorical boom, well, that’s really up to your preference. I’m just the humble fellow wishing you a good time, regardless.

But I digress…and supposing you One Stoppers have sifted through my silliness and well-wishes, I’d like to kick off my return and the week with my latest submission to One Stop Poetry’s One Shot Wednesday, a tanka titled: “By the Sea“…

Sunlight on white sand

Refracted in pillowed veils

Hiding sand castles

Bronzed amidst unyielding tides

Sprouted in short-short visions.

Coughing Camels

Photo by and copywrite Fee Easton.

It began with little Indians

rolling crude

puffing psychoactive spirituality

in lieu of peace signs in the sand.

Pet plants petted

coughing Camels patronizingly,

coaxing out life

one voice at a time.

Every breath breathes history

says the shaded mammal;

it sucks it up in fossilized harmony

and spits it out, in yellow –

it’s just shades of grey anyway

where humanity soars

out on a lung.

* My submission to this week’s edition of the One Shoot Sunday Photo Prompt, with that emotionally charged picture provided by one Fee Easton. I’ll be honest, this one’s still a work in progress; not entirely satisfied with how it turned out, but for the moment, it will do for this week’s prompt. As for Fee, well, she’s a fantastic photographer – be sure to have a look at my interview with her when you get a chance. You won’t come away disappointed…and while you’re there, check out all the other poets inspired by the prompt!

Ghosts of the West

All the Pretty Horses -

it don’t matter none.

Just dust clouds on the wind -

the cowboys and their guns.

All the West was won,

the graves and ash to grind -

the child looks, but it don’t matter none.

All the Pretty Horses

have run their fated courses.

* My latest contribution to the wonderful One Shot Poetry Wednesdays! Once you’ve had a look, check out some of the other One Shot Poets as well–they’re a skilled bunch of poets, with a supportive and thriving community.

Of Turkeys and Bounty

A cornucopia, all for me,
how thankful is the blind man
to the fruits of his fair nothing—
the greenery, grown, beneath the
scarlet massacre-flood
through the sky, the day
the men in their wide-brimmed hats
forgot the sea, learned the barrel
no one ever looks the same
behind the sights.
A turkey stuffed
with all the hands, the hammers,
unsung ringings in the deep
lightly smelling of the smoke,
the factories that brimmed with weary souls,
to bring the table to the meal,
to bring the car that brought the people—
smoking still the stilling rifle,
that bought and held and earned
the right to live, to dine,
the right to never know the pain
of making—foundations
in a crowded horn, this overflowing
but the end, not the means.
No oven fire burns so hot
could give the soul,
we dine upon tonight.
Happy Thanksgiving week, everyone! This here’s my latest submission to the wonderful One Stop Poetry’s One Shot Wednesday.
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Does today’s poem look familiar to some of you? Well that’s because you might have seen it hosted on One Stop Poetry on Monday. It’s my holiday dedication piece, and as I will be AWOL over the next few days enjoying the holiday spirits, I thought it only right that this should be the piece I leave you with for the days to come. I hope all my fellow Americans out there enjoy the holiday, and this time with your family. And for those of you from the international community – check out my post on One Stop Poetry from Monday to learn a little about this national holiday, and find some art and poetics to boot.
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Cheers!

Give Thanks!

This week’s Quotes are in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday! For all my fellow Americans out there – I hope the week, and these season, treat you well, especially on whatever travels you may be shortly undertaking.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.  ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds.  ~Theodore Roosevelt

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson