St. Regis, Montana, Blues
The narrow two-lane road west
from the four-way stop lights,
the road I wanted to morning-drive with a beer,
is flood-crumbled and more rain's on the way.
A Greyhound bus lurches into town
off the freeway... passengers running for
the nearest filthy toilets, trailing burger wrappers
from Missoula and parts further east.
The dog's driver says he ran over two tube
tents on the off ramp. Bawling like spring calves,
a couple of women by the casino appear
to be reassembled photographs of carnival geeks.
The women have greasy bowl-cut chestnut hair,
twins in their forties crashed by mortgage-misery...
off to discover the West. One calls to me,
You a real cowboy? I wave back,
Naw, just a salesman of freeze-dried
pork chops and add-warm-water ice cream.
Three weeks on the road, tired as
a whorehouse mattress inspector,
I stand by my rig, throat-burned
from gutting Copenhagen juice...
stand there in St. Regis only
because my buddy Nuno said,
It's the roughest, weirdest bus stop
in America... well-oiled by through traffic,
bus passengers with loose change,
and crazy-house runaway patients.
Up-freeway I stop in Wallace, Idaho,
happy to sit in the rain with a whiskey
outside a bar across from an antique store:
kids with guitar cases, an IGA grocery store
at the edge of town, summer mountain mist,
a couple in a doorway softly breaking up...
the girl in a sky-blue peasant blouse
and cut-off fashion jeans, the girl's face knotty
as she asks, We'll always be friends?
Like even much later than this?
The boy and girl are eating chocolate
bagels like St. Regis and places like it
are no more than sidewalk gum wads.
So much of my heart's country is butchered.
~ for Nuno Santos