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the 40 mile desert crossing to california, 1849

We all went west.


Hawks sail high over the ridge

inspecting our marching 

insect procession 

melting into the alkali desert

moth eyes mired in diamond pools of unwater.


Spiny mountain crags cast long blue shadows over this white waste of sand. 

A crew of loons, a stew of wounds

horses mules oxen, heat thirst starvation, men becoming dunes.


Ox skulls stare with cavernous holes

cobwebs strangling wooden wheels

caked in dust under horseless wagons.


The cry of the Overlanders 

`another ox down’


He took my wife for an angel

licking ten trembling dew drops 

from her fine, pouring fingers.

His weight wed the ground

and his shoulders stiffened slightly,

one more final morning under the searing desert sky.


The Reverend James Welsh Brier and Company

set out on the Southern route today

waved their withered wings

exited the stage and altered the dream.

But then the mad reverend raged

and seizing the stage

flew his Jayhawks west 

with flour scoops raised

in the haze 

of a valley named death.


The cry of the Overlanders 

`another ox down’


Five days gone, and the manifest urge, like a dirge calls our maddening hive of littering lives, spilling out in a tiring tide, where the walking dead drag passed the dark unseen fork to the guidebook meadows.


It’s man’s fate to seek,

make steel of his body

and gold of his heart,

we tear up the path behind us,

clambering into the dreams of red men.

From The Opulence Of InventionCopyright © 2018 E. P. Mattson, All Rights Reserved.

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