In the west

A halfway kind of being in a nowhere kind of town.
In all my wild imaginings I never dreamed that I
Would end up as this desk-bound, mortgaged, soft suburban guy.
And so I let my thoughts take off and float like thistledown
Across the great grey ocean, hazy plain and mountain crest
To where my dreams lie hidden
            In the west.

No mansion waits there for me: just a strong, plain house of wood
And river-stone. A saddle barn and round corrals outside
And from the porch an eagle’s view across the Great Divide;
A life I was not born to, but I’d learn it if I could
For my heart’s surely bidden
            By the west

I saw it, touched and tasted it so many years ago;
Life called me back, but something deep dug in, and stayed out there.
What happened to that younger self, who walked without a care?
A man I half recall, but if I met I’d scarcely know,
Whose path and mine diverged in ways I never could have guessed.
Were those my finest hours
            In the west?

One day I’ll pack a suitcase, buy a ticket, catch a plane
Cross sea and seven time-zones, leave this unplanned place behind,
Saddle up the buckskin pony who’s been waiting in my mind
And take the lonely trail. Down in the dust I’ll leave my pain
And from all my endless striving I will find a lasting rest
In green grass and fair flowers
            In the west.


I’ve been reading Robert Service’s Songs of a Sourdough and wanted to try writing something in similar vein. In particular, I wanted to play around with a refrain line, even though it sounds a bit quaint these days. I enjoy finding the space within strict rhyme and metrical schemes: another symptom of my need for boundaries, and even stronger urge to kick against them! N.

4 thoughts on “In the west

  1. I think I like your poem better than most of Robert Service. I too love the west, though I’ve left it. I prefer Colorado. My favorite place to live would be a little town in southern Colorado called Mancos, though Cedaredge on the slopes of Grand Mesa, the world’s largest flat topped mountain, would do just as well. The problem is the cost of housing in either place has gotten prohibitive, and my daughters and grandchildren are here, and Sturgeon Bay, in its way, is just as beautiful. Still, I loved living in New Mexico while we were there. The poverty was draining, but I was working hard to try to alleviate that for the Navajo, so I had a good purpose. I got a kick out of this poem, Nick.

    • I was a little nervous of posting this, to be honest; my only experiences of the West have been a couple of vacations in the BC Rockies many years ago, and I’m conscious that my view is a very rosy, romantic and unrealistic one. Having lived my whole life in green, safe, populous southern England, I’m not sure how well prepared I’d be for life in New Mexico or Colorado, but it still sounds wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

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