Its form is that of a pastoral, easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting . . .
_ _ —Dr. Johnson
Description, description, adjective, noun:
this is a breeze. Look at Wetaskiwin,
this town I’m pumping gas in on my way
to somewhere real: a gaunt, dank-furred coyote
dozing on a graying plain, the runt spine
of its Main Street pocked with auto shops,
its houses painted anything from grey
to grayish beige, dead pickups sunk in bluegrass
like stray mammoths stuck in tar. Even
the light seems petrified and drifts like sand.
One hardware warehouse, one mink farm
gagging the clouds, one curling rink, one park,
its kept swan floating like a plastic bag.
What could be simpler?: step outside, say what
you see: a good life, since it has to be.
Maybe some token reference to Arcadia—
right here, or on its way; it doesn’t matter:
paychecks come, or don’t; trucks at the dump
move piles back and forth, keeping their ruin
straight, and herds of black cows circle like
a roving shade the city casts, keeping
them cool. Even the teenagers, I see,
are happy here, in the available world—
the cars they rev at both the traffic lights
are relics hauled out of a golden age
into today: rusted and belching smoke,
but lavish in their way, blurry with bass,
Savini diamond rims spinning in place.
Michael Lavers is the author of After Earth (University of Tampa Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in The Best New Poets, Crazyhorse, AGNI, 32 Poems, The Hudson Review, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. He teaches poetry at Brigham Young University. (updated 10/2020)