Bitter Dock, U.S. 40, Dinosaur to Cross Mountain

Robert Hill Long



These seeds are pennies the wind spent in Eden. Where we fled it, the coins fell in our footprints, tracking us.


When each plant thrusts through gravel on each side of the road, it opens a green hand, splayed, with too many fingers, like a freak’s or a forgotten god’s. Ignore the hands, and each will make a fist that can split the highway from edge to center. Your head, laid in their palms, would seem newborn size again: what kind of accident would it take to let that happen?


Locked in a momentum of enameled metal and glass and fossil fuel, body motionless and hurtling in this parody of longing, you’re near nothing but another distance. Hands off the wheel, feet off the pedals, eyes off the road, you could plunge through the glass between this life and what has always been lost to it.


How long can you speed past these green implorings? Could you just slow, pull over, step from the machine, extend your own hand? Maybe you’d feel greeted then, newly received with each green vein in the long flat finger touching yours, as though you are the friendly alien come, at last, to earth. Touch one hand, you touch all: there are hundreds in each mile of highway cut through the hills. Touch one and the ripe green hand will offer its whole coppery wealth for you to stay with it an hour.


The wind will feel like a blue coat trimmed to the new size of your patience by the stitching of hummingbirds. Each black-eyed flower between the road and the mule deer ridge has its eye trained on an Eden that always lay just this far (a look, a step, a touch) away.




Robert Hill Long’s books (1987-2010) include The Power to Die, The Work of the Bow, The Effigies, The Kilim Dreaming, and The Wire Garden. He has been recently awarded second fellowships by the NEA and the Oregon Arts Commission. Recent work appears (or soon will) in Terrain, 2River View, Cirque, Dead Mule, Diagram, Gray Sparrow, In Posse, Los Angeles Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Sentence, The Other Journal, The Pedestal, The Writing Disorder, and Unsplendid.