The poet recalls a road trip—and past love—that wound its way through the national parks.

Eroded Peaks with blue sky and whispy clouds, Badlands National Park, South Dakota, 1975. (Photo by Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images).
Credit: Getty Images

We had left Yellowstone, where I remember the vagina-like geysers, people standing around with their video cameras waiting for the bursts. This was in 1990, I think, when my then-girlfriend, Myra, rescued me from a summer in Santa Fe. We camped in parks across America. One night, somewhere out there, we left with barely any gas—that was Myra’s favorite game, and she assured me we were okay but very nearly closely we weren’t. It was late, we were tired, and the gauge was getting lower and lower. Did we run out of gas? I can’t remember, but we arrived at Badlands, in South Dakota, around dusk. The rocks were multicolored and piles of them were all around us and the color of the sky was simply ancient. Something in the pink sky that night reminded me of sails. We were ripped out of our American minds, our New York minds, our fading girlfriend time, into a very ancient, seamless time. It got darker and then all the pinking color was gone, just the skies surrounding us so that it was entirely still among the rocks. I remember hoping they would leave it like this forever because this powerful, mythic prettiness—our right—is all we want.

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