National Poetry Month — Day 10

It’s a wonderful skill to be inspired by the places around you, to weave your environment into your writing.

Poet and fiction writer Adam Holt has used his experiences traveling to inspire his work, and this week I’ll be featuring three of his poems which are each rooted in a particular place. This is the first of them.

 

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Hope and Distance Out West (Taos, 2008)

 

Tired cowboys when the day is done
patch up their flak jackets and then their lives
with calls to their wives, their girlfriends, or both.
To parole officers, pastors, parents,
and agencies, either credit or escort,
or to children. Their children. Their sons.

Slack-jawed lines ferry harmonica voices
from Motel Sixes in South Dakota
down the Great Plains
to eager ears in Albuquerque.
Hear mom hand the phone to his son:
“When y’all comin’ home, pop?”
“Soon, son, soon.”
“Did you qualify today? How’d you ride?”
“Almost good enough. Better than last time.”
“What that buzz on the line? What’s that buzz?”
The window unit gurgles outside.
The cowboy holds a beer to his bruised temple.
“It’s windy on this riverbank. Great sunset.”
“Y’all camped out!” says the boy. “You got a fire going, huh?”
“Soon enough. Get your sleep now, son. Good night.”

An image warms the child in his bed,
of Pop patting his Quarter Horse goodnight
beside a trickle of a stream.
The boy tucks himself under a sheet,
snug like embers in his father’s campfire,
the one he will watch until the smoke subsides.

Back at the Six, the cowboy eases himself
onto a threadbare bedspread,
puts the ice bag back on his arm.
He flips through standard cable for a spell
with his good hand,
remembers his own father’s voice
crackling homeward over those same lines.
Same lines. Same lines:
soon, almost good enough, good night.

These words, his father’s words, are now his own,
words that ride many miles but always return home.
They smolder in the ashes of the family they repair.
They make a man a totem a child can bear.

 

***

 

As I said before, Adam writes both poetry and fiction. He and I will be sharing a table at the Gulf Coast Indie Book Fest in Houston on May 7th, if you want to stop by and chat with either of us or, you know, buy our books. He’ll have the first two novels in his YA sci-fi series, The Conspiracy Game and The Rathmore Chaos, available. (And if you want a recommendation on those, my daughter and her best friend, voracious and advanced readers both, have read them three times.)

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