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Driving Home
By Charles Simic


Minister of our coming doom, preaching
On the car radio, how right
Your Hell and damnation sound to me
As I travel these small, bleak roads
Thinking of the mailman's son
The Army sent back in a sealed coffin.

His house is around the next turn.
A forlorn mutt sits in the yard
Waiting for someone to come home.
I can see the TV is on in the living room,
Canned laughter in the empty house
Like the sound of beer cans tied to a hearse.

--------

Another from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "In "Prodigy," [Simic] describes himself as a boy who grows up 'bent over a chessboard,' instructed in that war game in a house near a Roman graveyard in 1944," writes Mary Karr. "Who better than Simic to make our own wartime losses real?" Of the poem above, she adds, "it runs through me like a hard hammered nail...that last image of beer cans tied to a hearse as if for a wedding is an apt simile for the horror of overhearing sitcom laughter in the fallen soldier's home. The particular tragedy evokes at the level of a whisper the raging grief that now afflicts the thousands who mourn fallen loved ones."

We visited our last two parks in Utah on Monday -- Canyonlands and Arches, each of which is best know for precisely what its name suggests, though both also contain many other amazing features -- a meteor crater, a salt valley, an "island in the sky" accessible only via a narrow strip of land called The Neck. We woke up to see rabbits and lizards right behind our cabin, ate breakfast and drove to Canyonlands, which in addition to its Upheaval Dome and enormous canyons boasts both a view of the Rocky Mountains and some wonderful rock formations with names like Whale Rock and the Monitor & Merrimac (all of which really do look like their namesakes).

We had a picnic in Canyonlands, then drove to Arches, which has even more amazing rock structures (the Three Penguins, the Sheep, Balanced Rock) has lots of caves, including the ones from the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as well as Fragile Arch, Pothole Arch, Double Arch, Broken Arch, Sand Dune Arch, Skyline Arch and many more. It wasn't nearly as hot as the day before -- at least, there was a nice breeze blowing on the hilltops -- and it was much more pleasant to take little hikes to see various features.


Double Arch at Arches National Park.


Fragile Arch, probably the park's most famous feature. It's much more impressive up close, but we were not up for the 3-hour, 2+ mile strenuous hike.


Sand Dune Arch, so named because one must walk across a thick layer of sand to reach it...


...and a whiptail lizard that we saw on the way. It really has an orange back, it doesn't just look that way because of the sand.


Balanced Rock, which is probably the Arches' best-known feature besides Fragile Arch.


This rock formation is known as the Three Penguins. Of course we had to take a photo!


Upheaval Dome at Canyonlands National Park was once thought to be a salt dome, but is now widely believed to be a meteor crater.


The Monitor & Merrimac, named for the two Civil War ironclad warships from the Battle of Hampton Roads.


Before heading back to the campground, we stopped in Moab at two fossil and crystal stores, where younger son acquired an ancient extinct shark's tooth. Then, while Paul took the kids for ice cream, I went into Lost River Trading Company and bought a salt-dyed dress and a silver snake ring. Back at the campground, Paul made salmon cakes for dinner and the kids toasted marshmallows. We could see Jupiter in the sky before the gorgeous pink-and-orange sunset over the mountains. Tuesday we head across the Rockies past Denver -- a long driving day again!
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