Badlands

We arrived in a thunderstorm. Lightning streaked like fingers,
touching three or four places at the highway’s edge. Then a low rumble,

the Dakota air taut and restless. For weeks you’d made me promise
to avoid photographs, insisting I see for myself the red-brown slopes

of volcanic rock, the sharp spires rising from the prairie like backwards
drying blood, the bizarre striations deposited in centuries of layers.

This was the final thing you wanted to give me. Rain hurled itself
at the roof of our rental car. The guard shone his flashlight on our faces,

said it was a bad night for camping. We took the last hotel room.
Left the drapes open. Awoke to a hollow, unknowable place.

October 2016