Coming Out of Rough Creek Canyon

I dream of Mexico beaches or nights
along the river walk—a destination.
As usual, you won’t commit to anything
until it happens. There’s no talk
of tomorrow or where we’ll be
a year from now.

I press for a plan; you say
you’ll surprise me,
but last summer, camping on the Llano,
you brought no food, not even a pan
for the fish we caught. I fumed,

but if we had stopped to cook,
we’d have missed that armadillo
just off the path, moonlight
glinting on tarnished armor,
a found coin in the dark.

So, this time, I wait and see.
Sunday, you pull me into the jeep
and we head northeast down back roads,
find Cottonwood Flat
and Little Rough Creek.
We wind through red clay canyons
caught in clear March light,
the air tinged with old music.

Settling into the day, I inhale
fields fresh with winter rye,
just ripened to the shade
of sex. We drive every road,
and you, the newcomer to this land,
take me places
I’ve never been, though we don’t
even cross the county line. 

This morning, that same strong light
slants through bedroom blinds
and sprawls across our hearts.
I know there’s no plan
for this day or next year.

But I recall yesterday — the way
we suddenly twisted out of the canyon
and up on to the flatland.
You turned to me and smiled,
and there before us
lay a red dusted carpet of a road,
unfurled all the way to forever.



Janice Northerns is a native Texan who currently lives in southwest Kansas, where she teaches creative writing, literature, and composition at a community college. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Roanoke Review, Southwestern American Literature, Iron Horse Literary Review, The Laurel Review, College English, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, The Cape Rock, SLANT. She is a recipient of the Robert S. Newton Creative Writing Award from Texas Tech University.




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