(Far West Texas)
Ignited by sheet lightning,
fueled by tinder of grass and weed
weeks dead from grueling
desiccation by the sun,
it rages uncontrolled
on the flanks of a Davis Mountain.
Wide eyes shining
with tongues of fire,
by a brazen sign of God,
the believers stare out their windows
over charred landscape
rife with stone for tablets,
crackling with the righteous
conflagration of the bush.
In Big Bend Ranch
State Park, at what was once the ranch house,
one could rent a room by the night.
Though the rooms were spacious, clean,
tastefully decorated and equipped
with a wood-burning fireplace,
the lodgers had to share the kitchen and baths.
We stopped by just to check the place out.
The sole couple staying there
greeted us at the gate, assuming
we were new lodgers. Said they’d recently
moved to the Texas Hill Country
from Colorado. When asked
how they liked the park, the wife tactfully
praised the red blooms of the ocotillo
as her husband simply said, “Stark.”
I can still see, against the backdrop
of seemingly endless Chihuahuan Desert,
their slowly evaporating smiles
and their eyes widening when we said
we were only dropping by;
wide eyes lifeless as those
closed by the fingers of a priest
blessing the newly dead. As we were leaving,
I asked how long they’d been there.
They replied it was their second day. Of seven.
Larry D. Thomas, a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, has published twenty-two collections of poetry. Among his many awards are two Texas Review Poetry Prizes, two Western Heritage Wrangler Awards, and the Violet Crown Book Award.