Way Out West

I catch a light at Foothill,
the old Route 66
that brought me west
50 years ago.
The guy in the next car
is looking up into the phone wires.
A great screeching is going on up there.
There’s got to be 30 wild parrots
gossiping on the line.
We wait for the light to change,
decoding the opinions expressed above.
The noise,
the fullness of life;
it’s 2:43 p.m.
at the crossroads
of The Inland Empire.
The New Kansan Motel
has it’s perpetual “Vacancy” sign up.
The orange groves and vineyards
have given way
to strip malls.
The river rock sheds,
the old stagecoach stops
strung out along the base
of the San Bernardino Mountains
have mostly returned to the earth.
The grand sycamore tree though,
where they hanged Sally Teasedale,
still stands strong,
reaching toward heaven;
it’s a tenement for wild parrots
with a lot to talk about.
I think Sally made a deal
with some cowboy
and he didn’t hold up his end
so she stabbed him
in his drunken sleep.
That was back in 1890.
There’s a fully nude review
a little west of here now.
The place is loud and dark
and air conditioned.
You can hear, “What The Cowgirls Do”
blasting out of the speakers.
It makes the imagination
run a little wild.
The promise of a full delivery
of earthly delights
can be deranging.
We’re only 50 miles from the coast
but it’s tempting to stop
and play the last hand
right here at this strip joint.

I think we need rain,
rain to wash these filthy streets
so they shine,
shine with the possibilities
of the golden west
where the rainbow
meets the sea,
where a dream can take shape,
where you can put your toes
in the cool Pacific
if they don’t string you up first
for taking what you earned.

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