Dear Kid, Lady, Z—, Old Foe Friend Stranger Death,
Someday you’re going to get as far off the beaten track as Nevada, & your radio dial’s going to spin like a compass in the Arctic, with no place to lay its weary head, & you’re going to wonder what ever brought you out to this godforsaken stretch of burnt toast in the first place, where the wind farms go for miles, making a guttural whump…whump…whump, a slow roulette that nobody wins, but be patient, wait till your radio dial clicks in & a blind man starts talking about how he’s taught himself to ride a bicycle down any city street by echolocation. He clicks his tongue as he goes, he says, & the sound comes trotting back to him like a seeing-eye dog, bearing news of a curb, or a car door, or the kid who’s crashed her bike in front of him. The blind man says he “clicks around” wherever he goes, picking up images of trees, buildings, chain-link fences—a whole vocabulary of the echoes each thing makes, as though they were calling out to him one by one & pronouncing their names. He’s learned to play soccer, as long as the ball’s wrapped in a plastic bag & music’s playing at one goal to point him the way—he clicks around defenders “before they know I’m coming.” & when you hear that, you’ll laugh & lean your head out the window into the quivering Nevada heat & your click will go streaking down 70 miles of open blacktop in front of you like a tumbleweed before a storm, & you can follow it straight into Great Basin National Park, where you’ll have to sing your way through the sandstone cliffs & canyons to give the mountain lions fair warning that you’re coming. & what will you sing? Something with precision & soul, something to make the lions howl back at you, & the cliffs keep harmony, maybe Chuck Berry, maybe Ella on her staircase, belting & listening & belting again & listening & mounting a little higher every time.
Henry Walters is a naturalist, teacher, falconer, and writer-in-residence at the Dublin School, in Dublin, New Hampshire. His first book of poems, Field Guide A Tempo, was a finalist for the 2016 Kate Tufts Discovery Award.
Credit: Sand Spring Valley Nevada, by Cooper, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic License