Gary Whitehead

(Pawtucket Rhode Island)

Tumbleweeds - Poem by Gary Whitehead

Rolling nests of the prairie,
prickered and denuded and dead,
clutching at clumps, skipping across
asphalt, whole shrubs ripped out
and flung, and clinging together
like herds racing over acres.
I'd only ever seen them

in Spaghetti Westerns tumbling
quaintly across the painted backdrop—
props blown by big fans and collecting
off-camera against some studio wall.
But here, in Nebraska, they roll
for miles unless a fence catches them.
All day they crunched beneath

my wheels like the delicate skeletons
of small animals. One clutched the grille
and flapped there like a giant bird.
And I felt I could join them, easily,
as stripped as I am, as thin as I've become,
as determined as I am to roll onward.
But even as I dodged them, speeding up

or slowing down, I found myself
feeling satisfied when one met me head-on,
the tread turning branches to chafe.
I relished the champ of their blanched
bodies as my machine ground them to dust,
here where chance seemed perfectly arrayed
and where, once, the deer and antelope played.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 6, 2012

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