US Route 50

by Brian Spears

We stopped in Middlegate, Nevada,
to add your shoes to the roadside tree
that held what seemed like thousands.
Shoelaces tied together, old black Reeboks
became a bolo slung through iced air,
but they never hooked a branch.
Few houses, fewer towns, and what
we called towns were a bar, maybe
a gas station, a pale blue tin building
with plywood sign: Lucido Diesel Mech.
And the road, old but unworn. Ahead,
chimney smoke frozen, cloud-white.
No curling, no climbing. As if the fire
which caused it had frozen as well,
as if the air was so cold it stopped time,
that pillar of smoke stood in the air
as we inscribed a semicircle about
the house for what seemed fifty miles.
Even while you drove you marveled.
We had both been watching, wondering
if the other had noticed, wondering if
the sleep we’d lost by driving all night
had caught up with us.

BRIAN SPEARS is poetry editor of The Rumpus. His first collection of poems, A Witness in Exile, is forthcoming from Louisiana Literature Press, and his poems have appeared in Quarterly West, and The Southern Review, among other journals. He was a Stegner Fellow from 2003-2005 and currently teaches literature and creative writing at Florida Atlantic University.