To New Idria

After the bats flew into the cabin—
blind messengers with no message—

I lay awake all night in that small hot room,
afraid of bats, afraid of spiders, afraid of mercy.

At dawn, light crept over everything,
golden oil, salve of loneliness.

I drove the rutted road beneath
my uncertainty. The sky was very high

and the road very bad, as the sun seared
the gold-dry hills, the red rock moonscape.

27 miles to the ghost town, the
abandoned silver mine that is New Idria.

Out of the lunar nowhere horses appeared,
threadbare, exhausted in their withers.

Riderless, the horses kept company with the sky,
a little muddy water, a little bitter

hay. The colt with its rolling eye
could not look at me. Horseless, I left,

unable to bear my own company.
I tried to spare a little mercy for them,

dropping the invisible whip
from between my teeth.