The New Road


Richard Shelton saguaros        

Tonight at the end of a long
scar in the desert a bulldozer
sleeps with its mouth open
like a great yellow beast.
A coyote sits down to watch it
from a safe distance. An owl
questions again and again.
No Answer. Someone is building
a new road, wide
and smooth. The huge saguaros
in its path have stood here
two hundred years looking up
at the sky. This will be their
last chance to see the moon.
In the morning the yellow beast
will wake up and move toward them.

We believe in movement. We live
in the sanctity of mobile homes.
We are children of those
who created the portable Indian.
and moved him from place to place.
Ours is a republic of cylinders
and pistons, a republic of wheels.
Progress moves before us over
the hill and we pursue it as fast
as we can. With our horses
in trailers, our politicians
in limousines, and all our angels
on motorcycles, we pursue it.
The world rolls on and these gods
of the desert cannot get out
of its way. They are no use to us.

I have stroked them until my hands
are bloody, but what comfort
can I offer? They are doomed
and I am tired of being human,
tired of being mad in a mad world.
Now I lay me down in the new road
but to whom can I pray? The owl
has stopped calling. The coyote
gets up and fades away. I will
look at the moon as long as I can.
Then I will sleep in the desert,
helpless in the path of progress,
waiting for the sound of wheels.

From Selected Poems 1969 - 1981 by Richard Shelton, © 1982 Richard Shelton. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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