Pale Blues

It’s not the open road we crave.
It’s what hovers alongside:

red barns abandoned on a distant hill
sped by too fast,

road-kill and even more of it:
some downed,

mid-lane, compelling a hard yank
of the wheel;

some lugged to the throughway’s hip,
as in a gentle gesture. Silos:

forgotten, rusted. The shiny pride
of some new-age farmer and his wife

in their four-wheeler ready to lurch from
the gravel strip. Longhorns, shorthorns,

Jerseys and Belmont Reds, their tails
at rest. Angus and Holstein gnawing

the dry culm of perennial rye grass. One
white horse, one pinto’d—no saddles,

no riders. What was once a farm could
be again with a little tending if the land

would just hint it was ready to yield. Still.
No sound but the black crows in the pale

blue of November. Suddenly comes
the chill at its seasonal verge with bare-

limbed tupelo, birch, big-tooth aspen;
a sugar maple unwilling to slope

toward death, plentiful in leaves as red
as woo, electrically orange, gold as new

doubloons bottom-feeding shallow creeks.
Then a dry bottom is spotted just as fast,

skirting every dip and hillock that’s been
omitted from Michelin’s map—grazing

the mileposts while I motor due south
to Ashland, Mount Gilead, Millwood,

Gambier—small towns, populations just a
blip; nuts and rhubarb stands; Presbyterian

churches; all-grades schools; Gano grain
hoists, all shrouded beneath gray-some

clouds. Abruptly, the sun burnishes half-
warmth along the straight-line loneliness

of byways—no cars ahead, a flatbed truck
at least two miles behind. The tollroads

forsaken except for one Amish buggy,
sabled as soft night, clip-clopping across

the overpass, coming round as my coming-
to place appears with its riot of pedestrians,

a flicker of light in the inn’s welcome window.
All that was once Ohio fading in an afterglow.

About the author

Lynne Thompson's work has appeared in Ploughshares, In Posse Review, Rattle and Sou'Wester, among others. These publications were almost as exciting as trips she's…

Read the full bio

Issue 19 · December 2013

Table of contents