Outside North Platte, Nebraska, Sick for Home by Ted Lardner

A car rolls in from the highway and stops.
The engine cuts off. The headlights darken.
The doors open, two men climb out,
into the dark in different directions.
On both horizons, mist. Herds of ghosts, bison,
churn the air with their hooves.
So late. So tired.

Past the “No Overnight Camping” sign
I wade over my head into shadows.
At the back of the rest stop,
up the length of a post of the right-of-way fence,
I drag a match slowly and lift it slowly,
then lie down and watch it burn.
No wind. Down the wide valley,
the highway subsides. In the shallow quiet,
a cricket begins, the small flat stone
of its voice, skipping.

My friend drops his bundle out on the berm.
Long booms of pipe—wheels
of irrigation—revolve the distance in wet
circles. From the end of his life,
he leans over, I see him open and empty
the duffle that holds
every part of his love I’ve refused.
Ted Lardner‘s writing has appeared in Poet Lore, 5am, Arsenic Lobster and The Normal School. He is an alum of the Colrain manuscript conference, and his chapbook, Tornado, was published by Kent State University Press.