Travelogue

There is no bed beneath dreams

Madagascar wove of children reaching

aphrodisiac watermelons, rind ground between

teeth and veins, time whittled

against dagger-thin ribs.

 

Therein the child sees fingers clasp watermelons

in the rain, whistling as his father

whistles for the matted dog in cassava brush

to clothe itself in their stray hut

from the animal greed of the skyborne vibrance.

 

Desperation is his dream, where

the little hands roam and bleed seedlings

for every golden drop of nectar

noontide malevolence does not suck

into the sky, away from his naked earth.

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The Beauty of Travel

“What you’ve done becomes the judge of what you’re going to do – especially in other people’s minds.  When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then.  People don’t have your past to hold against you.  No yesterdays on the road.”
~William Least Heat Moon

Author William Least Heat-Moon speaking in the...

Author William Least Heat-Moon speaking in the Microsoft Auditorium of the Central Library, Seattle, Washington, 10 November 2008 (Photo credit: Joe Mabel, via Wikipedia)

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.

On the Road to Colorado, Day 2

Quote of the Day: “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Iowa—

America, husked

beneath wide skies.

Morning began early, to the sounds of two Hispanic maids quarreling in the parking lot. Oh dears. Nonetheless, it woke me in time for a good shower and the most important meal of the day: breakfast! Even if said breakfast consisted largely of Cheerios. I might have partaken also of the inn’s crescent rolls but they looked distinctly…more brown and less crescent-y than I would have hoped.

Regardless, breakfast provided the opportunity to meet my fellow guests—an asian couple that quickly departed, a pair of Israeli backpackers (who insisted to me that coffee is the greatest proof of God…alright, I’ll roll with it), and a young Native American family headed to Chicago (and yes, if you’ll note, that means one of these groups snuck in when I wasn’t looking during the night…thus ruining all that cozy space I had! I mean…THREE people in a hotel besides me? Madness. Two is just right.)

But after that breakfast of kings, it was back to the road…

Today’s journey began in Des Moines, Iowa. From there, I traveled 402 miles in 5 ½ hours (Tom Tom and Google both told me it would take 6 ½ – once again, technology is thoroughly walloped by my likely lead foot).

Iowa: There wasn’t a terribly large amount more to see. Lots of Windmills. Some of the flat gave way to trees and hills as rivers loomed. I-80 wound into a riverside city, to become one of the busiest and most congested bits of real estate I’ve seen since the highway through Chicago.  A bridge formed the border (thankfully toll-less) between Iowa and its neighbor, one city flowing effortlessly into another, and Omaha forming the welcoming party on the other side.

To Sum: Nebraska.

Nebraska:

  1. Initial thoughts: wow, look at all the green and the hilly nature of this place…maybe it won’t be at all as people described…
  2. Quickly followed by: Oh God. It flattened. Where did variation go? Where is height? I can see for miles…
  3. Which in turn made me miss and better appreciate the cloudy skies of yesterday. Though I was never hit by any real rain, the wide open spaces, and the stormy nature of the sky allowed me to see great variations in level, character, and color in the sunset-speckled clouds. Today, there was just open blue. The end result was a surge of boredom as everything blended into one another. Blue and flat green…that was my road.
  4. Along the way, I did see  that even here comes the occasional spurt of originality, in the form of a T-Rex Scarecrow guarding a Nebraska Corn Field. And this sucker was a good story tall. Rawr, indeed.
  5. On a whim, I decided to re-engage the radio. 94.1, I discovered, had surrendered itself to a bizarre mix of Katy Perry Pop and Will Smith Hippity Hoppin’. It was amusing, for a while. Then the pop saturated my soul too deeply and had to be expunged.
  6. As bad as that could be, though, what was worse was the lack of gas stations. There were numerous villages along the highway, yet many of them had a motel or dining establishments…but no gas stations. Where do these people get gas? Worse, on hitting central Nebraska, a grievous switcharoo transpires…
  7. The heartlands.

    Unleaded is now “Super” Unleaded. It costs 20 cents more than the unleaded many of you know and love. Unleaded has ethanol in it now, and to boot, I can get real ethanol, which they seem to be encouraging…but it’s all just there to screw with my head I think. Ah, corn country.

  8. By this point, the radio descends into either Radio Static or Country. Neither is optimal for sanity.
  9. Sign of the day: A bumper sticker reading: “honk for my beaver.” This Minnesota man – yes, it was a man, and his plate said Minnesota – is clearly a strange sort.
  10. North Platte looms, and with it, apparently, parks dedicated to Buffalo Bill. Also a fort. And my latest inn…

Quality Inn Bedroom...

North Platte, Nebraska. It has a gorgeous river view, I’ll give it that. Beyond, I would not recommend it to any of you travelers out there. If you do head that way, though, I would recommend somewhere other than the Quality Inn. The wi-fi is shoddy, the view and the room itself are obviously…both less efficient than my previous lodging was. Still, the rooms do come with both a fridge and a microwave, so that’s something at least.

Next stop? The final leg of the trip—on to Golden, Colorado.

Another night, another room view - they're gonna spoil me with these sights, aren't they?

Poetic Spotlight: Journey

Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, image care of Wikimedia Commons.

Travel! It’s the theme of the week don’t you know? Our poetic spotlight of the week certainly isn’t breaking that tradition, with the wonderful Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Journey.” Millay embodies one of those figures many people like to think of when they think of poets – wondrously lyrical, passionate in her views, and known as much for love affairs as poetry (the woman liked to love – and it’s a theme easy to spot in a number of her works). This American poet, playwright, and activist from the first half of the 20th century was an honored winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, and a must read for any soul with a poet’s heart.

So without further delay, I offer you one of her works:

“Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
Blow over me—I am so tired, so tired
Of passing pleasant places! All my life,
Following Care along the dusty road,
Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
Tugged ever, and I passed. All my life long
Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
And now I fain would lie in this long grass
And close my eyes.
Yet onward!
Cat birds call
Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
Are guttural. Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,
Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines
Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,
Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
Only my heart, only my heart responds.
Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
A gateless garden, and an open path:
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.”
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Now Boarding, Now Rambling

You'll see the imagery-relevance of this soon enough. Image by: Chris Galford.

In keeping with the Den’s theme of travel this week (see previous post for update on that little number, mind you), what few free moments I found today were spent typing up this little number for you folks. Wanted to capture a sense of depart-wait a second! What am I doing, giving away the meanings? That’s for you people to figure out after all – don’t know if I did well, if I just give all the secrets away.

Even so, I think it needs a little touch of work still (and yes, I know I get snipped at by folks for saying that any time I do it on here…but nonetheless!), but that’s the beauty of the blogosphere – so many wonderful minds out there, ready to give and to take, critique, grow, and flourish in the presence of their fellow creative community members. Some silly people believe that if you aren’t content with it, it should be hidden away, kept from public eye until you are…to keep one’s self-opinions and dignity high I suppose. Personally, I like the reality check – and if it’s bad, goodness, shouldn’t a writer wish to know? So as ever…critique welcome!

Consequently, if you haven’t, (and particularly if you’re not wandering in here from D’Verse Poetry), you should give this wonderful community a look. Lovely site, lots of great people about – and if you’re at all familiar with One Stop Poetry, you’ll find lots of familiar faces there.

Now Boarding

The yellow dress sits at the bedside table.

Bare feet upon the tiled trail,

smooth lines catch the dirt,

end in mountains under

Phrygian skies

where words give to mudslides

of heart; no sneakers

will bear them there.

 

It was the shoes they left behind.

When worlds light by tails

there’s no room left to fill,

the memories move like clockwork –

bodies remain,

lost along the long roads

rendered Silken; eyes open

to coal bell rings.

 

No one speaks of the bill till it’s due.

They always say to breathe–

she prays that he will breathe.

Across the prairie roams old

Model T

beating out the departure chords,

soot-lined; black worlds

always greet the young.

 

The yellow dress sits at the bedside table.

She would take his hand,

tell him blisters fade with time,

that their shoes will find him still

in Requiem

somewhere beyond that grey road

they wait; clock ticks

as she offers him the keys.