Highway 395

        One hundred and twelve miles
of road sways along 
or snaps straight its yellow lines 
pointing at the next ridge.
Four cars;
one old truck full of hay that unhesitatingly passes us at full speed,
one hugely oversized, chrome-splashed,
RV towing an SUV,
escorted by three fat motorcycles.
        And this:
We float over low hills laid like 
bare fingers 
across the soft palm of spring.
We zigzag up a knuckle then
wind down tree-lined, creek-fed valleys
in the web of the fingers.
Below us, each wide plain
something new and simple.
The tender, too thin, skin of the earth 
supports low flying clouds of yellow wildflowers
and islands of grey-green sage and olive coyote bush. 
Decayed wooden posts hold sagging, rusting, barbed wire.
They stand along the road like 
half stifled exclamation marks.
We pass through a cattle ranch;
acres uniformed in tall green grass 
rolling like a golf course 
or flat like a pool table, 
where shiny black cattle wade up to their chests
in food,
eight balls, scattered around after a good break.
The ornate gates leading 
from one pasture to another 
are tied open by climbing roses and matted weeds.
A vague band of mud clods and manure 
cross 395 to another open gate,
another pool table filled with invisible cows.
        The land, pale and distant,
blends into the pale blue, soft air.
Overhead, the sky is cobalt blue as if the atmosphere was so thin
satellites can look down on the line of highway
as if looking over the rim of a dry well.
        The clouds are a stage set.
They grow on the left and shrink on the right,
decked out to give the illusion of
perspective and depth.
        The clouds are the dust kicked up by the feet of 
a herd of horses once seen galloping West.
        Ahead, an alkaline lake. (Lake Abert)
An eye-burning white line thrust beyond a
tumble of dark red-brown rocks.
The water, a line between the white shores,
sharp and shiny as a shard of glass.
The high row of perfect white and grey puffs 
is mirrored there.
An abstract painting of silence and waiting.
A superlative reflected by a superlative.
        It could still be morning
The air is cool and clear and still.
A small bird whistles and flits 
from one low bush to another.
        I am the day on the edge of my seat.
I am the greedy eye, taking it, 
bringing it all home like a thief,
and leaving it in Oregon
permanent 
like a cloud.

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