Off  a two lane highway in the middle of Kansas

sits a motel with a blue vacancy sign

next to a tiny park in a tiny town

with a Santa Fe Chief train engine,

its coal car and a towering sign

that tells travelers they are

“1500 miles from New York,

1500 miles from San Francisco,”

where I find a room so tiny and cave dark

I slide into a sleep I’d forgotten

since I lost myself in cities

away from the raw smell of the earth


I curl peacefully, the hermit in me

thankful for the gas heater, toilet, lamp,

chair and bed, the antique quilt

protecting me from the high plains wind,

the sub zero Fahrenheit of my fear,

confident the new Pakistani proprietor

will leave me alone in the morning

with whatever secrets I’ve check in with


When I awaken to the sounds of semis

banging across the highway bridge,

I take comfort in the aromatic leftovers

of cinnamon and cumin

from the Pakistani’s lunch,

the same comfort I felt

when my father ran water

to shave as I half slept

in the smell and crackle of the bacon

my mother fried in a cast iron pan

during the weather report