Across the Mountains
©2021 by Vernon Miles Kerr, VernonMilesKerr.com
Over the years, Mom and Pop had tried California,
but something always drew them back East.
Maybe they pined for that slower pace,
a less crowded place.
But when I was six, back they came,
Spanning the Continental Divide,
Several mountain ranges,
And a boring beating of desert,
To bring us back to L.A. for good,
Thereafter, to a brittle dry life —
With air sucked of moisture
By the undisturbed sun beating on the long Valley,
Braising all but the most stubborn dampness from it.
This was the new norm: a life of empty, thin air,
Unnoticed air — and unnoticed weather.
Top o’ Millstone Avenue in Santa Maria,
Pop, from his pulpit at the kichen table
Over coffee, between pulls from his pipe —
Or those evil, dark cigarettes —
Spinning sermonettes of Oklahoma youth:
Hunting, fishing, swimming
In favorite swimming holes —
Ignoring the water moccasins,
Being immune to poison ivy —
Some kind of truce with nature.
It sounded so very far away and so long ago.
Married, visiting relatives in Oklahoma.
Now it was real,
That first night,
Soaking wet sheets
Limp curtains in front of open windows
Unceasing rasping buzz of some insect
Dominating strangely fuzzy-velvet night air —
Cicadas. What are those?
Away from the Plains a few years;
Pulling into the parking lot in Indy
Tires hot from the drive across the mountains,
Opening the car door
Feeling eveloped in deep, soft humidity.
Ears assaulted by raspy cicada-racket.
While a siilent firefly streaks in the woods,
It’s anohter world
Across the mountains.