Santa Fe Trail

By Barbara Guest 1920–2006 Barbara Guest
I go separately
The sweet knees of oxen have pressed a path for me   
ghosts with ingots have burned their bare hands   
it is the dungaree darkness with China stitched   
where the westerly winds
and the traveler’s checks
the evensong of salesmen
the glistening paraphernalia of twin suitcases   
where no one speaks English.
I go separately
It is the wind, the rubber wind
when we brush our teeth in the way station   
a climate to beard. What forks these roads?
Who clammers o’er the twain?
What murmurs and rustles in the distance
in the white branches where the light is whipped   
piercing at the crossing as into the dunes we simmer   
and toss ourselves awhile the motor pants like a forest   
where owls from their bandaged eyes send messages   
to the Indian couple. Peaks have you heard?   
I go separately
We have reached the arithmetics, are partially quenched   
while it growls and hints in the lost trapper’s voice   
She is coming toward us like a session of pines   
in the wild wooden air where rabbits are frozen,   
O mother of lakes and glaciers, save us gamblers   
whose wagon is perilously rapt.

Barbara Guest, “Santa Fe Trail” from Selected Poems (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995). Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Selected Poems (Sun & Moon Press, 1995)

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Poet Barbara Guest 1920–2006

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Subjects Travels & Journeys, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Barbara  Guest


Barbara Guest rose to prominence in the late 1950s as a member of an informal group of writers known as the New York school of poets whose membership included Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. Their innovative approach to poetry was influenced by modern art, especially surrealism and abstract expressionism. Guest drew on her own background in art (she worked for Art News magazine in the 1950s) to create poetry . . .

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SUBJECT Travels & Journeys, Activities

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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