Out West by Carol Wright

by Mark Chmiel

on the road

late summer afternoon
surrounded by eroded hills, shadowed badlands,
thin stalked grasses and rocks
on a slight rise of the land
Nebraska or Wyoming, just could be about
anywhere this side of the Rockies.

a gas station on this rise fuels
a long sigh of relief as the
empty signal draws close.

out of the car the wind hits like a mother
who can live here? such arid desolation

and then
from an old pick-up truck, pale green and white
patined by the drifting dust
rust bordered wheel wells
emerges a brawny, sun-burnt red-faced man
old ranching clothes – jeans, faded cotton shirt
not completely buttoned over his belly
rough around the edges sort of guy
trimmed close by this boldered land and wind gusts
approaches.

I watch, my fear mercury unsteady
as he continues across the dusty concrete

a long, seemingly endless silence
then —
“Ma’m, could I help you pump your gas?”
blessed relief, broad smile,
a good heart in the heart of the world.

“Cowboys are trustworthy.  They won’t hurt ya.”  –Sarah Mackay

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