- 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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