Journeying West


Journeying west to a new country,

women mark the trails

with the things they leave behind.

Fans, little papers of rice powder,

fine-laced shoes, tucked

petticoats — almost at once they find

things they can do without.


Mired in the silt of rivers

they leave the familiar

anchors of mirrors and featherbeds,

the barrels of salt pork and windfall cider

they put up against winter.


Then muddled by distance

or the way the prairie

continually withdraws from them,

or because the stars here blossom in strange places, they leave behind the failed

compasses of letters, of bibles


and somewhere in the desert

they abandon the shallow

graves, the broken


of memory

and desire.


So in the end

women leave behind everything

but what is in their heads.

And then even

what is in their heads —


climbing the next

rock, the narrow trail,

smelling water and going to it —


in this way women cross the mountains,

and bring themselves down to the sea.