On a day in summer, we stopped at one of my favorite places on the Red Earth,
the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the badlands.
These trips across the country always make me think about my wide American land.
MY HOUSE IS THE RED EARTH
My house is the red earth; it could be the center of the world. I've heard New York, Paris, or Tokyo called the center of the world, but I say it is magnificently humble. You could drive by and miss it. Radio waves can obscure it. Words cannot construct it, for there are some sounds left to sacred wordless form. For instance, that fool crow, picking through trash near the corral, understands the center of the world as greasy scraps of fat. Just ask him. He doesn't have to say that the earth has turned scarlet through fierce belief, after centuries of heartbreak and laughter--he perches on the blue bowl of the sky, and laughs. If you look with the mind of the swirling earth near Shiprock you become the land, beautiful. And understand how three crows at the edge of the highway, laughing, become three crows at the edge of the world, laughing. Don't bother the earth spirit who lives here. She is working on a story. It is the oldest story in the world and it is delicate, changing. If she sees you watching she will invite you in for coffee, give you warm bread, and you will be obligated to stay and listen. But this is no ordinary story. You will have to endure earthquakes, lightning, the deaths of all those you love, the most blinding beauty. It's a story so compelling you may never want to leave; this is how she traps you. See that stone finger over there? That is the only one who ever escaped.
Three untitled prose poems from Secrets from the Center of the World, 1989.
Later combined in one song on her CD, Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century, 1997.
Again, I found this poem tonight while I was looking for something else: a poem of Charles Simic's that has a motorcycle in it. I know . . .