The Wastelander III
Ruins, Craters and Cliff Dwellings

[The “Wastelander” writings are a form of prose-sketching I came up with on the road. They are not poems. Though, sometimes, they are poems. Go figure. They are my attempt to capture the fleeting impressions, ideas, inspirations, thoughts of a writer’s mind. Parts I and II can be found in the recent archives. There are IX in total. Other “Wastelanders” from other years, other tours, other countries, can be found all the way back in the blog.]

Sometimes I feel…
I feel like
A fist.

--Porcupine Tree


New Mexico.

Nothing to say.
Lightning. Rain. Wind. Sun.
Lightning. Sun. Rain. Wind.

Late in the day. Trying to find a motel.
Cinderella livid
because I manage to miss
the entire city of Tucumcari.
“What?” I say. Blind with exhaustion.
“There was a city there?”

We drag into Santa Rosa,
all of us ready to dissolve
the family and try again


Alququerque: 8:30 am, ready to go.
But the kids are dead asleep.
They only got six or seven hours of sleep in the car
yesterday, so they need another eight or nine
to round it out.
But who am I to talk—Eric and Cinderella
apparently got up while I slept
and went to the work-out room.

Wind’s whining at the hotel window
like the three-headed dog.


Tense negotiations last night:
We finally convinced the teenagers
these 700 mile days
weren’t going to work out for us
just so they could get to Las Vegas
by Wednesday.

So we slow down
like the sandwich lady
to see Abq, the land,
the desert & sleep
in Flagstaff untattered
uncrazy & not fighting.


the Creative Writer
announces that
ride the wind
like horses.


Gas: $86.33. Kill me now.


West of ‘Burque:
dead heart of gunslingerland.

The whole state’s
been pan-fried.


In and out of black tides
of heat-frozen lava.

Before us,
a Fed Ex double-rig
catches big desert wind
and tries to flip over.


I am using my top-secret
psychic powers to shove
drifting semis back
into their own lanes.


I’m Galloping to Gallup!
Every loser on this road
probably makes the same joke.


Freight train nine miles long.


12 abandoned tanker cars
on desert rail spur:
11 of them rusted to the color of scabs;
1 pale startling turquoise.


Continental Divide!
Now my pee
will end up in the

Best name:


Dust-devil walking
along Old 66
looking for cars
to steal.


Mystical rocks up high,
ruined trailers down low.


Every UFO
is actually a tiny puffy


Thank you, Jesus
For the Arizona
Welcome Toilet!

The Painted Cliffs
never looked
so lovely.

Every meal
since 1987.



Soft-Serve cliffs glob
slither & blob
to the road.


100 yards
between 40 & 66: barrier of death:
forgotten signs sunburned blind, collapsed
houses, slaughtered
restaurants serving dust to phantoms: one piece
of a roadsign still standing:
½ MI.

Everybody in America
leaves history behind
at 80 mph.


In 200 sq. miles of dirt & burn

1 tree.


Oh mound of rock
The size of a VW
Were you once
A mighty Alp?



Boy, no kidding.


Weird delights: 6 foot lizard
made of welded pipes
peeking out
from the side of a hill.


More weirdness:
Cement dinosaurs, a plastic ostrich
& a yellow school bus
in a dirt lot.


2 T. rexes
running beside the road.

anything could happen
to these poor children
waiting to go
to school
in this savage



Daddy’s Science Stop!

We pull in to Meteor Crater!
Everybody in the van highly suspicious
and vaguely embarrassed by Nerd Dad
enthusing about this big freakin’ hole.
“Did you see STARMAN???” I cry.
“Uh, no,” say the teens.

I am trying to move them to awe, when all they are is hot.
They ooh & ahh falsely to make me feel good, as we walk up, then
thunder thru the gift shop looking at expensive chunks
of meteorites & rubber fossils but mostly at
cold drinks and ice cream.

Dino hand-puppets.

But we get outside, and the stunning hole blows us away.
Meg is snapping a hundred pictures. Eric and I are in Big Mon
hiking mode, stomping around the crater in mighty manly strides.
Everybody freaks out because there is a plywood astronaut inside the crater
alleged to be six feet tall, and all the tourists bellow, “He’s TINY from here!”
We all feel fear when we see how really deep the hole is.

How can Flagstaff
of the tall pines and cool breezes
be only 35 miles from here?
We’re in a furnace.
Feels like they’re 2 states away.

Chayo gets in trouble for trying to climb the cliffs.
Megan identifies at least five dads and tourists who are “Creepers.”

You can feel the house-size boulders
falling back to earth.

But screw it.
We’re hot.


Flagstaff! The desert, as it always does
every time I drive this road,
gives way to oaks and pines and then
there we are.

We pile into the hotel like scrambling puppies.

Call for pizza.


Sunburned, wind-burned,
salty, climbed-out, hiked-out, drived-out,
dried lips, dry nose, when I stop
my poor head keeps whirling
and around
the globe.


A Mormon al in a desert gas station today told me that “East Coasters” from Chicago like myself just love southwestern junk like art and Kokopelli and cow skulls and cactuses and stuff, but she personally couldn’t give a darn for it. And she found out on her recent visit to Delaware that Easterners have hot dog stands right on the street, but do not allow you to put ketchup on the franks. I kept saying, “Wow!” and “Uh-huh!” All I was buying was stickers of southwestern junk like art and Kokopelli and cow skulls and cactuses. I felt like I should have bought some of the Mormon books she had on the counter. But…I didn’t.]


Watching the stunning flood damage on TV.
And the tornado damage in the Panhandle.
All things we somehow

Our Little Brown van w/ its small dramas,
dreams, hopes, regrets, resentments, complaints
& hilarity,
its cooler and water bottles, its bags of cookies—
BBC Radio 1 on the satellite radio—
all around us, close behind us:


Thursday, June 19

Without this notebook
I wouldn’t know where I was
or what day it is.

Dagoberto Gilb sent me
a hilarious e-mail scolding me
for blurbing a book he doesn’t like.
I swore I’d never blurb a book again—it’s just
that I’m trying to be a team player.
He replied: “You
ought to be a senator.”

And e-mail from our beloved Sheriff Ogden in Yuma.
So far from home, yet still in the circle
of my tribe.



Cliff dwellings & ruins.

We sweat-hiked in the brutal light.
at the old Sinagua
cave homes.
Assaulted by sly lizards.

Chayo & I
were stalked by a flycatcher, who
flew from tree-top to tree-top
watching us
as if new were zoo animals
of a particularly curious mein,
and, well,
we were.

Indian paintbrush
Mormon tea
The uplifting scent
of piñon.

We stood in the two-room ruins
of the pueblo—human hands 800 years ago
packed that mud, lifted these stones:
Human voices, coughs, laughter 800 years ago
washed across these walls with the cooking smoke:
rabbit, wild turkey. Talk.
Babies crying.

Ghostly feeling of the stones.
Who fought w/ her sister in this corner?
Who dreamed here on a rainy night?
Who leaned here, on this wall,
tired from a long good day
of work?

Chayo and I
caught a massive cicada.

In the parking lot,
Workers who have been hauling
landslide rocks out of the canyon
since dawn,
bent over, heaving,
doing the sunstroke dry barf,
guzzling water. And
what can you do?
What can you say?
“Thanks!” Cindy called.
“Great job!”

They waved.
They smiled.
They hung their heads
and lit smokes.
Sweat hitting the blacktop
like hot rain.

Megan laughed at us for saying
“Thank you.”

But how can she know
what is required
by the spirits?

We thank the shadows and the dead.
We thank the echoes of the gone.
We thank the lizard and the cicada.
We thanks the heat and the silence
and the brittle little blossoms
of the cliffrose.

And we bend back to our task,
which is The Going.

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