Two poems by Stephen Bunch

Dodge City Out

Wind turbines spread in a grid
near Spearville—parallel strands
of red lights flashing
in unison against a broken
Saturday night of lightning
moving into Dodge.

On Sunday morning the Crystal Cathedral
rises in straight lines and angles
on a television screen in the Comfort Inn motel
on the Boulevard of Wyatt Earp,
another straight shooter gone askew.
The minister delivers a sermon
on the geometry of salvation,
the busy intersection of the cross,
where the horizontal line of daily intention
crosses the vertical of hope and redemption.

Outside Ulysses a neon Pegasus glows.
At every highway junction, signs announce feeders.
On US-56, the fed fill pens in a stinking patchwork.
At the crossroads, seller and buyer
meet, feeder and fed, sinner and redeemer,
briefly, in passing, joined at cross
purposes before moving on.

Plains people know the ease
of straight lines and right angles—
the appearance of management, control—
until they vanish in the slow
imperceptible curve of the horizon.
And somewhere between Ulysses
and Walsenberg, on a ragged line
of antelope and chaparral,
they learn to live
with the apparition of mountains.

In the mountains and valleys
of northern New Mexico, the churches are packed
with mud and curve out from the earth.
But in a rectangular, windowless morada
near Taos the penitentes stripe themselves,
straight bleeding lines on shoulders
and backs to steer them off
the wayward path, the jag
and curve of mountain, the road that twists
into valley’s comfort, the easy sprawl
of cottonwood, the burst of mountain lupine.


“They have no true home as hunger and the enemy pursue them from every side.” (Father Dominguez, 1776)

Abiquiú is what’s left
after the slaves were freed
and enslaved and freed again,
until they couldn’t return to their people,
Paiute, Comanche, Kiowa, Pawnee, then land
granted, Genízaros, “new troops,” to serve,
muchas gracias, the governor.

After O’Keeffe stopped painting,
but before the ravens above
the White Place cease their cries,
Abiquiú is what remains of sunlight

along the line of the muezzin’s evening call
from the spice trader’s mosque
beyond the arroyo
to the newly-mudded morada

across the highway from Bode’s
General Merchandise,
where ristras, “live minnows,”
and a Jesus Action Figure
with Glow-in-the-Dark Hands
await bored travelers.

Next to a mailbox on the way out of town
a basin of bleached bones
sits on a sand-pitted washing machine.

The Chama’s swell subsides
after July rains.
Tamarisk overtakes the cholla
along the irrigation ditches.
Jeeps with boat trailers move on.
Someone builds a new school
for someone else’s children.

About the author

Stephen Bunch lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas.  From 1978 to 1988 he edited and published the little magazine Tellus, which included work by Edward…

Read the full bio