West 2011

Sunday, April 03, 2011
American Arteries (West 2011)I have always lived in the western half of the US. South along the Pacific coast and east to the Continental Divide. I live in a land whose history, whether nationally or locally is at once ancient and yet still recent. I also live in land that has a short collective memory. Where history and myth fuel political arguments. Where a man who funded death squads can become listed as one of our greatest presidents with a very real push to add him to Mount Rushmore.

I have grown up in the shadow of an empire in decline. Sure, I write about the good old days, but my good old days also include meth overdoses, AIDS and unemployment. These things inform my world view. This shapes who I am. Today I want to be a stenographer, an observer and a witness but never an innocent bystander.
West 2011 – In The Waning Days of Empire
I drive this black and gray road
while hymns to muscle cars
are sung by Springsteen.
Caught up in visions of
James Dean and Steve McQueen.
Woody’s ribbon of highway
passing through decaying cities
where once industry thrived
now left to rot, visions forgotten
unseen through the skeletons marked by time
This red white and blue unending artery
pumping goods from other lands
through the heart of America
Across this land still beautiful
even in it’s most denuded state
the people have gone from
thriving to just surviving
An empire in decline
where the agents of the rich
buy the souls of the
shell-shocked survivors

I cross this land
looking for signs of life
only finding angry voices
assigning blame on my radio
Never realizing this country has been
dying a slow death
since the winter of sixty eight
Progress changed the empires path
but the bitter old men fought back
with better weapons
and louder partisans
And those who scream
really only want to understand change
but it’s confusion that feeds this empire
True believers became blasphemers
real compassion replaced by hatred
inquiry supplanted by blind faith
blinded to the real plight of humanity
Singing, ever onward, Christian soldiers
claiming to reclaim this land from death
while the rest of us watch in horror
as progress is undone


  1. I love when we get off the freeway and drive the old highways...You get to see what happens when a town loses its only source of income. We live surrounded by towns where the railroad went away, the factories closed, the freeway moved south. It creates a beautiful but haunting vista.

  2. I recall, through your words, reading Blue Highways in the late 80s, after I moved to Oz, a gift.

    I recall, with that, asking an Australian friend to really listen to Born in the U.S.A..

    Learning experiences, both.

  3. Strong and good! Fascinating what one can find if leaving the big roads in most countries.


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