Passing Through Albuquerque

John Balaban
At dusk, by the irrigation ditch
gurgling past backyards near the highway,
locusts raise a maze of calls in cottonwoods.

A Spanish girl in a white party dress
strolls the levee by the muddy water
where her small sister plunks in stones.

Beyond a low adobe wall and a wrecked car
men are pitching horseshoes in a dusty lot.
Someone shouts as he clangs in a ringer.

Big winds buffet in ahead of a storm,
rocking the immense trees and whipping up
clouds of dust, wild leaves, and cottonwool.

In the moment when the locusts pause and the girl
presses her up-fluttering dress to her bony knees
you can hear a banjo, guitar, and fiddle

playing "The Mississippi Sawyer" inside a shack.
Moments like that, you can love this country.

From Words for My Daughter. Copyright © 1991 by John Balaban. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Bos 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271. All rights reserved.

From Words for My Daughter. Copyright © 1991 by John Balaban. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P.O. Bos 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271. All rights reserved.

John Balaban

by this poet

poem
The stream runs clear to its stones;
the fish swim in sharp outline.
Girl, turn your face for me to draw.
Tomorrow, if we should drift apart,
I shall find you by this picture.
poem

Hadn’t seen Eddie for some time,
wheeling his chair through traffic,
skinny legs in shorts, T-shirted,
down at the corner off Dixie Highway,
lifting his Coke cup to the drivers
backed up, bumper to bumper, at the light.
Sometimes he slept on the concrete bench
up from Joe’s News.