Touchet

Some names stay familiar a whole life even when
you know not much about them. Such is Touchet.
Did I ever stop here? No, I don’t think for a minute,
but it’s a place I passed going to see grandparents,

where there was farm and cousins and grandpa driving his
Deere tractor in the usual pheasant-corn field,
where life went on a thousand years for one who is
six or eight. I could pretend to smell hot rolls in

grandma’s wood-burning stove beside the kitchen,
a picture of the Lord holding a sheep that wandered off
the prairie, and barn of jumping lofts and hay piled
high enough to feed the calves and fill the air with dust.

Touchet was not worth the effort to stop. It was the
half-way spot to somewhere else. “Where are we now?”
I’d ask. “Touchet”,  then fall into the custom sleep,
no need yet to lift my head and guess how far

the miles to go. A placeholder of mind, a pause
in the beat of an eager heart. No pretty little
settled town with river running along the main;
Why is there such a place as Touchet?

It’s not really hardly there, sort of a theological
holding tank to explain the empty space between
our house and grandma’s. It could be on a map,
but why? I never saw a Touchet boundary,

only a sign on the empty railroad track. Poorly-
stacked buildings holding each other up in
drunken tango, the whole place hoboing a ride
on the Northern Pacific line. Even a runaway

train would not choose to make this stop
since nobody is there. Nothing is right. In
the middle of nowhere. If you would stop
nobody would notice you or care, as nothing

happened here and you couldn’t really call
yourself alive and it would be a mistake to
think so, unless you were a road-flattened
dog or coyote or snake looking for a place

to hide from the hot prairie sun, or gave up
running and wanted the moon and stars to
find you. Then you might crawl beside one
of the tilted buildings, slump against the wall

with boot tips pointed up and spurs clenching
the hard ground while waiting for the hostile heat
and smelly sage brush, but since my grandparents
died I miss seeing Touchet pass through my mind.

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