In the high mountains of northern New Mexico
(I don't remember where), we stopped for coffee.
It was a long crossing and we were a little afraid
in our small bug crossing that great range
with miles between any stop, no towns along the way.
The night before, the wind had blown, fierce and demented,
at the eaves of our motel room and we'd lain listening in the dark,
thinking how far away home was,
the distance a great ache and a loneliness inside us.
Now, the great heights and range after range stretching before us,
dwarfed and intimidated in our tiny car,
not wanting to look at each other we felt so diminished.
Coffee in a ramshackle diner by a station whose pumps appeared
and the chatter of our hosts, amiable but in an alien language,
sipping coffee, me smoking, gathering our courage.
When it had come as much as it was going to, we left
and went back out to the car and started the engine.
It had a hollow sound in the high altitude.
We wondered if it would stop suddenly and never start again.
We drove on, climbing and dropping till it was an endless thing.
Finally, we dropped and did not climb again
and then the road widened into a town and we entered it with
the feeling of having come through something
and stopped and, climbing out of the car, stretched,
stamped our feet and then ate lunch, all the time silent,
hardly speaking, the jukebox playing lonely Mexican music,
those terribly beautiful songs with their high harmony
that get inside you and lodge against your heart
like orphan children crouched in the shadow of a church
awaiting the inevitable with the calm and perfect patience
of the damned.
- Albert Huffstickler
First published in: The Olympia Review
© 1994, Zero City Press, Olympia, WA.
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