Last Paragraph in the Last Chapter

They are gone now. Fled, banished in death or exile, lost, undone. Over the land sun and wind still move to burn and sway the trees, the grasses. No avatar, no scion, no vestige of that people remains. On the lips of the strange race that now dwells there their names are myth, legend, dust.

--Cormac McCarthy, The Orchard Keeper


Figure 24-A New Rose

Blue Ridge 2

It was just out of Boone on 321 on a downhill slope where I broke away from my father. It was raining and I think it had him spooked, the road to Erwin curves and twists, but they’re wide through the mountains there so it runs about 55 plus. I was sick of worrying about his Harley behind me, checking my mirrors after each dogleg, my mother towing the trailer behind him, sick of the rain. I had come down here to tear through those hollows like I had before, rising up from Tennessee come morning and gone into the Carolina highlands.

A solid hour of burned homesteads to bank past, goat shacks, paint-flecked pine wrecks tumbling. Each smooth arc run on little traction as rain was falling, stitching them together down the mountain to Erwin. Gearing down past the highest fingers of Boone Lake, flooded oaks rising from the water yet. I felt reckless and wild again. I didn’t know how far back dad was. I was ticking off the pissant towns flying past.

I drove it deep into the valley when I spotted the turn-out over the bridge across from the grocery. The bridge ran over a falls, dad said later he saw an eagle gutting down through the cut. There were vehicles lining the front of the filling station, I aimed for a small paved patch that turned back to a fishing spot. Braking, the rear tire locked up and I went into a fifty yard skid, the back end getting sideways out from under me. I eased off and it barked back upright. I got it slowed again and pulled off. The whole valley was quiet except for my engine’s low idle. I was breathing heavy in the helmet.

There was no movement from the store. I looked around, the high ridges, tall poplars, mist and smoke; I could’ve bit it there, I thought, and been satisfied.

From down the ridge, the sound of my father preceded his crossing the iron bridge. His sound filled the valley; he was running it faster now. I throttled my machine back onto the roadway and got ahead of him, barely.


Blue Ridge 1

I gassed up at Meadows of Dan eighty miles shy of Roanoke, doing my best to beat the sunset, the Honda thrumming beneath me as it had for four days past. It was late in Father’s Day and I was making for home, marking each curve with the music the engine made. More familiar each change in acceleration, the tone it took to climbing, the downhill song, punctuated by the gearbox. Ache spread roots deep across the span of my shoulders, my accelerator wrist numb for a hundred miles. I didn’t want to be on the parkway after dark, deer were light stepping in each field, perked in advance to my engine noise.

There were no cars, I moved singular through the landscape, rolling green and smooth through each corner, and green, bearing down, felt the wobble of my tires on the road in a numberless arc. An old man on a sportbike told me at Meadows of Dan not to worry about Rangers and to get it till I got to 460; I wound the road fifteen miles over the limit. There were my arms attached to me and my legs and the bike on which I perched but I could not determine the relationship between them all.

Past Sparta, past Galax, hunting for what Mary and I had reckoned to be a long haired, long horn yak we’d seen a year ago heading south after her dad’s funeral. I spent most of northern North Carolina wanting nothing more than to get a picture of that animal for her, but I must have run it too fast and passed it's shaggy blur. Bald knobs, vast golden lump fields, the road that is its own country. This was what I had wanted: no words, no music of my own making and lonely, on a high empty road.



Your Basic Love Poem that Can Be Read at Any Wedding

Things in their most basic form

are the hardest to put words around:

the winged tail of a shrimp.

a freshly washed pillow case,

growing crisp in the autumn air.

The late winter sun

quenching itself on a bowlful

of snow. The half moon

resting, always,

in your right thumbnail.

What I mean is this—

after the long ride home

when the grass is wet, and the dishes

have been dried, and the wrinkles

have begun to set themselves

in lines more broad

than fine, there will be you—

asleep. Your head in its infinite state

of undress. Each hair

set upon another

wrestling against the grains,

that by some unwritten rule,

must form in your blue eyes.

There will be you, again.


Alight, aloft, adrift,

in my arms alone.

There will be you

and me

and we will be

at home.

-M. C. Boyes