Abandoned Ranch, Big Bend

By Hayden Carruth 1921–2008 Hayden Carruth
Three people come where no people belong any more.   
They are a woman who would be young
And good-looking if these now seemed
Real qualities, a child with yellow hair, a man   
Hardened in desperate humanity. But here are only   
Dry cistern, adobe flaking, a lizard. And now this   
Disagreeable feeling that they were summoned. Sun   
On the corrugated roof is a horse treading,
A horse with wide wings and heavy hoofs. The lizard   
Is splayed head down on the wall, pulsing. They do not   
Bother to lift their binoculars to the shimmering distance.   
From this dead center the desert spirals away,   
Traveling outward and inward, pulsing. Summoned   
From half across the world, from snow and rock,   
From chaos, they arrived a moment ago, they thought,   
In perfect fortuity. There is a presence emerging here in   
Sun dance and clicking metal, where the lizard blinks   
With eyes whetted for extinction; then swirling   
Outward again, outward and upward through the sky's   
White-hot funnel. Again and again among the dry   
Wailing voices of displaced Yankee ghosts
This ranch is abandoned to terror and the sublime.   
The man turns to the woman and child. He has never   
Said what he meant. They give him
The steady cool mercy of their unreproachful eyes.

Hayden Carruth, “Abandoned Ranch, Big Bend” from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991. Copyright © 1992 by Hayden Carruth. Reprinted with the permission of Copper Canyon Press, P. O. Box 271, Port Townsend, WA 98368-0271, www.coppercanyonpress.org.

Source: Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991 (Copper Canyon Press, 1992)

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Poet Hayden Carruth 1921–2008

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Relationships

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Hayden  Carruth


"Now and then a poet comes along whose work ranges across wide and diverse territories of form, attitude, and emotion—yet with the necessary intelligence that belies a deep, lifelong engagement with tradition—so that variance never seems mere experimentation or digression, but improvisation," wrote Midwest Quarterly contributor Matthew Miller. "Hayden Carruth is such an artist."

The National Book Award won by Carruth in 1996 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Family & Ancestors, Relationships

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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