You want to know why I balk

At west Texas; at working the rigs

There another summer?

You ever been stranded

On the white shoulder

Of a little highway, of a little town,

And chatted with the boys

Who’ve driven out from their cruising

To discover where you’re going?

You ever spent the night

Rolled in the wet grass below

And slept late because of the silence?


You forget to think

With the itch to go

And you take a ride

With a red-bearded rancher

Who’s turning off in five miles.

The beer he offered for breakfast

Makes you steam like the dew rising

Before the sun.


Across the high dry concrete

And the dust settling after,

There was a brook running so

Shallow and clear, it was ice in the sand.

The water falling from your fingers

Could be her cold tresses in the shower;

The smooth sand, her hip beneath the sheet.

But there was no need to recall her,

I could soothe my throbbing scalp

And fill my canteen

In the frozen moment

Where a breeze might seem like a wild desire

Only dreamt of.


You’ve never waited all day

For the good ride,

And when it finally comes

(A moving van, pushing ninety,

Through the rolling hills at dusk)

You’ve not been made to explain

To the driver, younger than yourself,

Why you’ve left her.


It couldn’t be the beer every evening,

The long crying spells,

Or that your friends wouldn’t come around

Any more,

But what could you say to a stranger?

One that tells you, you’re wrong?


You could get out at the next stop.

Then alone,

Wish to go back to where the water runs

Like ice in your veins,

For now you’ve recalled her

And you must bow your head

And hold out a thumb to get away from there.