He’d gotten as far as Emigrant Gap,

pulling off onto a scenic outlook

beside the pine and granite bowl of Lake Putt—

not as a tourist taking in the view,

nor was it an empty tank—before turning back.

Only, he thought, it’d be getting dark soon,

a vague notion of appropriate time,

even if what first compelled him was the desire

to drive west till nothing was familiar,

to the last pier into the Pacific.

Yet stopping where it was reasonable

he reasoned the drive back would be long enough,

that he’d gone as far as where equally

driving back would not be too far out of the way.

Wherever he’d hoped to go, he reasoned,

couldn’t be all that different than his home,

nor better than the comfort of his bed,

because those things seemed appealing to him

being so distant now, seemed emptier

without than when he felt empty in them.

How ridiculous to drive all this way—

all that gas—he should’ve rented a movie.


So it was getting dark coming back,

the freckled Sierras ringed with highways,

red and gold s-bends in opposite spins.

Semis swung their trailer beds leftward

around his slowing pace in the right lane,

rattle of axles hopping over him.

It was not until he’d reached the state line,

seeing the lone miner of the state sign

crouched upon the backside of a mountain—

some god of all the silver state miners,

there was a prescience about his flat stare

all-knowing of the desert, what it was

and what it was always going to be,

its welcoming so anticipated—

that he grimaced, as if in defense, piqued

by that same confidence that turned him back

and had turned him back every time before.

Even the sign, even the miner knew.

He let up on the pedal in protest

to slow but not completely obstruct

his return—it really was getting late—

He would be in his home soon,

and lying comfortable in his bed.

R. Charboneau

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