We came through the desert
from rock that rose out of the ground like godly hands.
We lived on ham sandwiches,
maps with two lane highways highlighted,
state park campsites and a few dollars
to slip into wooden collection boxes at 3 am.
When we came to the California coast, driving Highway One,
the ocean was beneath us—a flat course to Asia.
We teetered like birds on cliff sides.

Fifty miles into California,
wild sage gave way to delicate gardens.
An Indian man at a fruit stand gave us directions.
His words were sea sounds
like listening to pebbles rolled smooth by waves.
We reached Santa Cruz, had dinner with an aunt.
Back in real time, parking lots, and freeways,
I forget how to make small talk.
My words had been left in a thunderstorm near Mexico.

My aunt offered an exchange: massage for poem.
It seemed a fair trade,
except my words had been taken.
When I went under that lucid line of consciousness,
land swept back into me.
A creek in D'low Mississippi,
the language of the south,
deep and warbling
unintelligible to my ears
but holy, as though these sounds could rise spirits.

There were cactuses;
the shadows cast by their needles in the 5 o'clock sun
finite and perfect as straight rattlesnake teeth.
I brought our roads into Cinda's little living room.
I brought them into my flesh.

When she finished
and I remembered how to move my hands
I stepped outside under redwoods, opened my journal.
But the page wasn't big enough for this land.
I held tight to those sounds and pictures
as they fled from me.
I had been exorcised with her touch.

Months later, I write.
Memory has set in.
I only find the pictures in brief moments
where time collapses
and leaves me open.
The road has become a thing of worship:
heavenly, larger than my body.
A car like a prayer,
moving me onto mountains
where saints might live.
As though we could follow god
down those two lane highways
where cliffs split open into ocean.

Copyright 2001 Lauren Mefferd