It’s a crowbar someone left on the side
of the freeway after changing a flat tire
at two a.m. No one knows how that bar
worked its way to the middle of the lane
where you are speeding,
distracted by an old song.
It’s a canoe someone dragged ashore
well beyond the water, or maybe
the water has receded; either way
you cannot launch the boat alone
where you want it to rock
on a surface between two skies.
It’s the mattress you were hauling in your pickup
that flew out and is spinning on the highway
like a fallen skater in your rearview mirror,
opposed to what you used to behold
through a clean windshield:
limitless highway, with exits.
My disappearing act was to a cabin
in Montana, which I practiced often,
but never this early in spring and this late
at night. A cursed drift of snow blocked
the gravel road, so I parked the car,
sawed myself in half to fit between
two quivering lines of cold barbed wire,
and started walking, a mile or so to go.
The shining moon was a silver dollar
that disappeared behind the fingers
of a cloud, and stars leaped like rabbits
from a giant black hat. The sagebrush
was a séance of pale, naked witches,
and lingering patches of snow glowed
like white capes shed by ancient seers.
I carried a bottle of potion in one hand,
a sack of victuals in the other, and a pack
on my back full of books—all I needed
for three days in a chair beside the fire.
I don’t tell this story to charm you
but simply because it happened to me,
and maybe it has happened to you.
Call it night’s hex: you think something
might occur, so it occurs. What if . . .
a buffalo, I chanted. And then appeared
in the darkness a few feet before me
a conjure of brown fur, hulking, breathing.
I turned to retreat and saw as in a mirror
another horned beast, another, then
another, rising from their sleepy prayers
with faces askance to fix an eye on me.
Mid-herd, the air was almost warm
and tinged with bovine musk. Faint ghosts
rose from their steaming beards. This will be
my finest performance, I thought, and right
before their eyes I turned myself into stone.