Night Travel

By Esther Belin b. 1968 Esther Belin
I.
I like to travel to L.A. by myself
My trips to the crowded smoggy polluted by brown
indigenous and immigrant haze are healing.
I travel from one pollution to another.
Being urban I return to where I came from
My mother
survives in L.A.
Now for over forty years.

I drive to L.A. in the darkness of the day
on the road before CHP
one with the dark
driving my black truck
invisible on my journey home.

The dark roads take me back to my childhood
riding in the camper of daddy’s truck headed home.
My brother, sister and I would be put to sleep in the camper
and sometime in the darkness of the day
daddy would clime into the cab with mom carrying a thermos full of coffee and some Pendleton blankets
And they would pray
before daddy started the truck
for journey mercies.

Often I’d rise from my lullaby sleep and stare into the darkness of the road
the long darkness empty of cars
Glowy from daddy’s headlights and lonesome from Hank Williams’ deep and twangy voice singing of cold nights and cheatin’ hearts.

About an hour from Flagstaff
the sun would greet us
and the harsh light would break the darkness
and we’d be hungry from travel and for being almost home.

II.
I know the darkness of the roads
endless into the glowy path before me
lit by the moon high above and the heat rising from my truck’s engine.
The humming from tires whisper mile after mile
endless alongside roadside of fields shadowy from glow.

I know the darkness of the roads
It swims through my veins
dark like my skin
and silenced like a battered wife.
I know the darkness of the roads
It floods my liver
pollutes my breath
yet I still witness the white dawning.

Esther Belin, “Night Travel” from From the Belly of My Beauty. Copyright © 1999 by Esther Belin. Reprinted by permission of University of Arizona Press.

Source: From the Belly of My Beauty (University of Arizona Press, 1999)

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Poet Esther Belin b. 1968

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Living, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Biography

A Diné (Navajo) multimedia artist and writer, Esther Belin grew up in Los Angeles, California. She is a graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts and the University of California, Berkeley. Her poetry collection, From the Belly of My Beauty (1999), won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.
 
Belin’s parents were relocated from the Southwest in the 1950s as part of the federal Indian relocation . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Youth, Relationships, Family & Ancestors, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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