The Wyoming Pagoda ~ Joan Colby


The smell of the sage

Is what reminds her

Stepping out of the Prius,

 But first she looks away

At the mountains bent like

Burdened women frozen

In their footsteps. The grey

Flank of cloud. A foothill rising

So finally she must behold

What’s left. The collapsing pagoda

Like a stack of parasols.

It would be beautiful, he said,

A permanence. A home.


She’d imagined friends drinking

Saki or Mexican beer. An appaloosa

In the corral. The sun coming up

Out of the badlands. She was just

A child when he fell

From the parapet leaving it all

Unfinished, a crazy ruin

Where tourists speculate on hubris,

How tower builders meet

The fate of confusion,

A babble of tongues or a misstep.


She doesn’t believe the rumors,

Ghost cries of buzzards,

Specters of sheep that vanish

Before one’s eyes or the stallion

That races the horizon at moonrise.


How it was the war or drugs,

A maze he walked drawing

Blueprints in his mind

As the breath of the Chinook

Warmed him to the task.


Cheap talk. What she remembers

Is how when he recognized

What was ordained, he tried.