CHEYENNE VALLEY, AUTUMN
in which the poet ends up echoing Roethke and can find no other way out
Broom weed blooms yellow clusters
while buffalo grass fades to sage and gray.
We find a tarantula barely
different from its background
of red-orange earth. It neither shrinks
Under the dust-red
gunny sacks dried over the fence
by the old gray barn, large brown bats—
large, a genus, not describer—huddle
for daytime sleep with mud dauber
nests, handy feed in old feed sacks.
I name the bug on the scrap iron gate
horned armory beetle for his color
and angular exoskeleton. A yucca
spikes up with angled precision.
The prickly pear betrays black rot.
Tiny purples prick the landscape.
Look closely, keep your head down.
Watch the green reeds press up
at the Miracle Pond while cockle-burrs
catch on your laces. Snakes
have dropped before you into this water.
Snapping turtle heads periscope
from its surface. The deer track,
coyote howl, woodpeckers’ calling lunacy
all tell us to circle into our camp
where in sun the wasps’ last frenetic
flights hum at rolled awnings, where
you can huddle knowing no matter
what you see or don’t, you’re not alone
in this, but surrounded. Small breaths
are breathing from our borrowed earth.
Laura Lee Washburn is the Director of Creative Writing at Pittsburg State University, an editorial board member of the Woodley Memorial Press, and the author of This Good Warm Place (March Street) and Watching the Contortionists (Palanquin Chapbook Prize). Her poetry has appeared in such journals as Carolina Quarterly, Quarterly West, The Sun, The Journal, and Clackamas Review.