Mother Road Vistas

–verse by D. C. Lynn

Route 66 from Needles, California, to Oklahoma City
“…a trip is an entity…different from all other journeys…it has personality…
…we find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us…”

…What’s your road, man?–holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road,
guppy road, any road. It’s an anywhere road for anybody anyhow…”


Needles, California to Kingman, Arizona

If you are coming-out of the Salinas Valley
and all that is the Monterey Jutland
Needles, California,
is the end of a long haul south to Bakersfield and then a sojourn west to the Barstow railhead
Needles marks the beginning of the serious desert

Monterey, with its over-taxed
over-rated pretentious narcissism and cold everything
from over-priced luncheon meat to all the truly lifeless things
that strut-about in designer wear thinking they are still
alive . . .
is history

The Bakersfield orchards
truck-farm bucolics
and hard-core cantinas
have died away

Barstow’s train yards are behind you

If you are heading-in
it’s the beginning of the end
of what’s left of Route 66
as well as the end of all the innocence you never really wanted
but couldn’t quite conjure-up

The Promised Land has ultimately turned out to be the sum total of what
Tom Joad couldn’t abide including the weather and the muscle cars

Then again, muscle cars were before his time
and most of the stoop labor out on the artichoke and the citrus wasn’t from El Salvador

Kingman, Arizona, to Williams

Kingman, Arizona, is footnote oasis in emptiness
that now
for most travelers
is either fill-up comfort stop proviso or a shortcut to Las Vegas and the Hoover Dam

Kingman roasts somnambulant
amidst painted signs and billboards touting the old days along the Great Diagonal Way

John-Claude Van Damme got a speeding ticket here once

Williams, Arizona, to Gallup, New Mexico

Williams, Arizona, could be anywhere in space and time
Anywhere tourists dare to tread

Williams is a timeless tourist trap in a small town
condemned forever
to be in close proximity
to the Grand Canyon
graced only by its position astride The Mother Road
and the coolness of its altitude in the high desert sierra

You can hire a helicopter

Gallup to Albuquerque

Gallup, New Mexico,
marks the end
of all that is the Grand Canyon
Painted deserts
Horses on the bitumen
No gasoline for incredible distances
Rented Winnebagos that one way or another only learned how to crawl
California prices winging their way back East and
all the high plains you ever really wanted with or without drifters
and vistas with the psyche of deity

Gallup marks the beginning of poorly-lit rest stops complete with poisonous serpents
beautifully run-down cheap motels along what is left of The Old Road
and long
long trains
that wail in the night

Albuquerque to Amarillo, Texas

Albuquerque is strip mall

Albuquerque is Colonel Sanders via over-passes painted camel color

Albuquerque is a glass condo jutting from rock and cacti superimposed on an azure
sky so blue
so clear
it leaves you breathless
breathless as a double Stolinaya neat and a corn-tortilla-scorching-hot-chipotle-sauce sidecar

Albuquerque is a quick study
fast exit stand-in who successfully debuts
a return to the brown emptiness of The Main Street which looms before the
Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma

Albuquerque is the beginning of a sincere appreciation for and the comprehension of
the word
flat . . .
and lots
and lots
of trucks

Amarillo to Elk City, Oklahoma

Amarillo goes by fast
even when you think that
you are never ever going to make it

Your back is tired
your legs are worn-out from driving without cruise control
and your back is infected with the throbbing memories of the
in a previous night’s cheap accommodation in New Mexico

Amarillo is the sum-total of Texas Panhandle reality

Amarillo is flapjack altiplano with mammoth thunder clouds you hope you can make a little time-on
and ultimately overtake

Amarillo is beef
lots of beef-on-the-hoof

red meat avatars
which stream by the windshield

Poor beasts standing or milling-about in ankle-deep excrement-filled corrals
chewing the cud . . . resigned to their destiny

Somehow cattle can always smell death
they sense its presence
they see it coming

If you get a chance to watch to seize a passing glance
even dead-tired
even at 85 miles an hour . . . you can augur death’s company

You can feel its finite charisma

Amarillo is sadness which fades into dark rolling thunderheads
Oklahoma and oblivion

Elk City to OK City

Elk City, Oklahoma,
home of the National Route 66 Museum
can actually cease to be somewhat camp on a late spring evening especially when you are
knackered and just can’t drive

You can exit I-40 and get your kicks just one more time
Most of the motels and weenie-burger shacks from the old days have been pulled down

Little of the past remains–a few nice old houses
shops and churches

A small supermarket or two keep company with a group of small family-owned businesses
which straddle a straight-shot American Graffiti drag strip in the heart of tornado alley

As rain falls in the evening in Elk City you open your motel room door to
watch the steam resurrect from the blacktop

The calf of your right leg thuds from all that was New Mexico
and the Texas Panhandle

Across the empty motel car park
the pungent smell of Punjabi cooking slowly drifts from the management’s private quarters

Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is jam on a piping hot fresh-baked whole wheat pita

Lots of jam
Lots of pita

OK City is strawberry preserves on non-stop horizontal brown study

OK City is an oil rig on the capitol grounds . . . and trucks

An eternity of eighteen wheelers
even a few Mercedes and an occasional Scania

Trucks that ply the Will Rogers Highway in the billowing silence of diesel ‘midst the enduring Spirits
of the Civilized Tribes

Tribes which survived genocide and ethnic cleansing

Tribes death-marched barefoot-in-snow to their native Trail of Tears seventh heaven from Northwest
Alabama and East Tennessee

Oklahoma City gives new meaning to the term sprawling

In OK City each car lot and retail outlet jealously guards its own private little backyard
complete with garden hose
lawn mower and chain-link fence

But you don’t think about all of this late at night

At night OK City is a high-rise blur
as Route 66 turns northwards to Tulsa with Chicago on her mind

Images fading fast . . .


D. C. Lynn is an American university lecturer who has lived abroad for many years. He attended the University of Southern California and holds degrees from Auburn and Pepperdine. His work has appeared in Chiron Review, Other Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Skive (Australia), Ranfurly Review (UK), Perigee, and others. His eChapbook, Jackson Street, has been published by The Dead Mule.

Back to Issue Eleven: Spring 2011