Gateway to the West

I was born in the Midwest heartland
nation center of Missouri,
born into the corncrib rocking
in the fist of the city,
then slipped west at night
a rock-a-bye baby in the back of a VW bug
bouncing across the country like a cradle,
two years old though eyes already vast and ancient
seeing the timeless steeple raised
at the night of railroad crossing,
hearing country twang thru radio dial glow,
dipping down the prairies
waking up lying on my back and
looking heavenward, the blue of the sky
fell in my eyes,
riding to land twinkling with evening sun
glinting on the lips of Pacific waves
at frontier’s end
nothing more
frontier’s end.

So, raised in the West I was never
to look from the East with longing
at mythic lands still mysterious
and possible because unknown:
the fact of being West already
on the perfect golden shore,
not a real cowboy west, but
still too west to dream of it.
And can’t go East, never to grow into
young and restless manhood, aching
like a Chevrolet to break loose
from Manhattan’s iron shore.
Never to be locked dreamless beside
Brooklyn’s Domino sugar plant
rising soot black by the black East River
concealing white sweetness inside.
Never to dream my way west in late night
green aquarium glow of television set
whispering black and white Jesse James
to me hushed and sleeping twelve years old
on the old broken couch.
Or to hopeful West of Route 66 epic
with the ghost of Dean and Sal sneaking
with suppressed giggles past sleeping
gas station attendants and spooking
the ghosts of the Donner party
in forlorn Sierra Nevada gaps.
Or hoping for an epic motorcycle ride
out of crowded elbow-locked East
into open West of red rocks and plains and
ah ain’t this air fresh as I always
heard it would be?
No, none of it
because I was already here,
West, in it.

 

An old celebratory Kerouackian poem for today’s dVerse OpenLinkNight, written after my first road trip east over the Great Divide.

10 thoughts on “Gateway to the West

  1. Nice lines: “So, raised in the West I was never
    to look from the East with longing
    at mythic lands still mysterious” I also liked the thought of the Pacific Ocean being frontier’s end.

  2. sanaarizvi

    Love this especially; “the blue of the sky fell in my eyes, riding to land twinkling with evening sun
    glinting on the lips of Pacific waves at frontier’s end nothing more frontier’s end.” ❤

  3. Well! You had me with the first 7 lines —- having grown up in the midwest, living 20+ years in Iowa, the Heartland, and now a city girl (albeit in my 7th decade) in Boston.
    You have definitely achieved a “celebratory Kerouackian poem!” Too many favorite lines…imagery…ideas to pick favorites. You’ve taken us on quite a ride!

    1. m.j.smith

      My family is/was Iowa-based, my birthplace the result of being “on the road” already. America used to be more regional, and I hope we keep some of those differences.

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