May 3, 2015

end the days
cleaning my chain
start the mornings
wiping bugs from my helmet
slather sunscreen
over my neck

“you ain’t scared?”
asks the woman
cleaning the vacated rooms
of Batesville’s Quality Inn
while I pack up my bike
she’s about my age
passing me as she paced
back and forth
before speaking
her mom works in the dining room
let’s me get extra coffee
while she cleans up breakfast

riding 278 across Mississippi
under a blazing sun
showcases the extremes
of economic inequality
mansions set on sprawling plantations
juxtaposed with rickety wooden homes
where the paint
curls up at the edges

the church parking lots
are full on Sunday mornings
I ride the sweeping lands
that inspired Mark Twain’s imagination
pass a sign boasting Elivis Presley’s birthplace
below it
a large piece of metal
a twisted guardrail

in this part of the country
you learn to settle into
being alone
listen to the wind and the crickets and the chatty songbirds
watch butterflies and wildflowers
dance in the air
on desolate roads


cross into Alabama the Beautiful
where they sell bibles at the truck stops
and every restroom sports a weight scale
country roads bespeckled
with Dollar Generals and Waffle Houses
churches, fireworks stands and abandoned furniture


Alabama feels peaceful
on Sunday evenings

“let’s put you over here”
says the woman at the country store
nestled in Oak Mountain State Park
she points at the spot marked 72A
after considering the map for 15 minutes
she wants to make sure
I am far away from
“the creepy old men”
who occupy the campground’s trailer sites

it is warm by the fire
I coax from split wood and pine needles
oatmeal and jerky for dinner
which I eat by the light from
my Virgen de Guadelupe candle
I write sitting by the fire
to watch light bounce
around the page


let the embers smolder
go for a walk through the dark
watch the full moon rise
up, through and over the trees
the nighttime lake
a cacophony of crickets,
and animals I cannot identify

low whistles
follow me in the dark
when men catch a glimpse
of my legs in tights
caught in the beams of their flashlights

when I return to my site
perched at the top of the hill
I realize my tent faces east
I watch the full moon rise up
in front and over me
an owl hoots
from a nearby tree
I study the branches above me
glowing with moon beams