I want to go back to South Dakota

South Dakota is a weird state of monuments
to dead men and The World’s Only Corn Palace.

We see Mt. Rushmore twice, and I keep
the decal on my windshield to prove it.

It is better in the morning
with the shadows on their faces.

The Badlands are just that: hot and dusty
unbelievably alien and beautiful under turkey buzzards.

We are fine with grit by 8 p.m., driving in darkness
determined to find a hotel, a shower,

a meal we don’t have to cook on the camp stove.
Communication breaks down when your stomach is empty.

I don’t say a word, because it makes me tired,
cranky, gives me a headache. I will sound petulant.

I AM petulant, but you will think
I am blaming you for something in Sioux Falls,

The lady at the Super 8 sends us to a takeout Pizza Hut.
The family restaurant doesn’t serve anything I can eat.

It is full dark, not sunset; we’ve lost an hour,
and the Chinese place is closed.

There isn’t a vegetarian restaurant that serves beer in sight.
It’s not your fault, and I don’t say it is.

When we get back to the corner where we took a left,
I, pizza in my lap and six pack of Miller at my feet, say,

‘Turn right.’ You yell that you don’t want to turn right;
you want to go straight, and wasn’t I listening

in the parking lot. I wasn’t listening in the parking lot;
I was fainting.

I say, ‘I thought we were going back the way we came. Turn right.’
You turn right. We go back to the hotel the way we came.

In the room, we eat pizza and Chex Mix, drink beer,
smoke, watch a biography of Mendel on A&E.

You apologized on the stairs,
which is nice, but I just want to sleep.

Badlands under blue sky.
Image by Scott Sanders.
Published in Power of Poem, limited edition for the smallman street poetry series, 1999.

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