finally, the moths have left for the mountains. I watch horses
being led from a fire. I feel made of driftwood. bleached and dry
and hollow—carved from something that used to be rooted
in the ground. I think about all the ways I have floated through
the country. touched soft crops and put green leaves on my tongue.
what would it take to rip off the tape that tethers me here.
would I look back over my shoulder, the dust catching in my throat.
the storms that chased me to my front door. the sabotage
of this empty city. the sentiments of rust and the gasping ground.
would I flinch? when I drive away from this place, it feels less
like I am going from one town to another, but more like moving
into a distant nowhere. where the sky and earth meet
in a thin line. I split the small grey thread of their meeting and I find
a road that runs sideways.
I choose to drive because it feels like there is no other way to get around it—the large emptiness in the earth. I drive until I can’t drive anymore. I blink past the four corners, the jagged lip of the Grand Canyon, milk-white sheets of soft sand, a petrified forest. I drive and think—as my car clicks up a mountain and shudders back down. As I groan through switchbacks and thin-branched peaks slippery with half-gone snow. I always feel half-gone or half-here as I tap brake pedal and imagine crash after crash. I straighten up at the wheel, arching my back until it crackles, to wake up and wish away my tumble from a cliff. I listen to the radio spin and spark and fade behind a wind-storm and tumbleweeds. my friend’s child doesn’t believe they’re real but I promise him they are—the weather makes a tangle of growing things. I feel the same ache— in a different shape—as I drive past a missile field, a UFO museum, a valley that gasps into the sky.
Sara Ryan is the author of I Thought There Would Be More Wolves (University of Alaska Press), as well as the chapbooks Never Leave the Foot of an Animal Unskinned (Porkbelly Press) and Excellent Evidence of Human Activity (The Cupboard Pamphlet). In 2018, she won Grist‘s Pro Forma Contest and Cutbank‘s Big Sky, Small Prose Contest. Her work has been published in or is forthcoming from Brevity, Kenyon Review, Diode, EcoTheo, and others. She is a PhD candidate at Texas Tech University.