Descriptions of landscape are common in poetry, but in “Road Report” Kurt Brown adds a twist by writing himself into “cowboy country.” He also energizes the poem by using words we associate with the American West: Mustang, cactus, Brahmas. Even his associations—such as comparing the crackling radio to a shattered rib—evoke a sense of place.
Road ReportDriving west through sandstone’s red arenas, a rodeo of slow erosion cleaves these plains, these ravaged cliffs. This is cowboy country. Desolate. Dull. Except on weekends, when cafes bloom like cactus after drought. My rented Mustang bucks the wind—I’m strapped up, wide-eyed, busting speed with both heels, a sure grip on the wheel. Black clouds maneuver in the distance, but I don’t care. Mileage is my obsession. I’m always racing off, passing through, as though the present were a dying town I’d rather flee. What matters is the future, its glittering Hotel. Clouds loom closer, big as Brahmas in the heavy air. The radio crackles like a shattered rib. I’m in the chute. I check the gas and set my jaw. I’m almost there.
Reprinted from New York Quarterly, No. 59, by permission of the author, whose new book, Future Ship, is due out this summer from Story Line Press. Poem copyright © 2003 by Kurt Brown. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.
About the Author
Ted Kooser was born in Ames, Iowa, in 1939. He is the author of a number of collections of poetry, including Flying at Night (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), Delights & Shadows (Copper Canyon, 2004), and Sure Signs (1980). His nonfiction books include The Poetry Home Repair Manual: Practical Advice for Beginning Poets (University of Nebraska Press, 2005) and Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps (University of Nebraska Press, 2002).
Kooser is the U. S. Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and a professor in the English Department of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He lives on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska, with his wife Kathleen Rutledge, the editor of the Lincoln Journal Star.