The Ballad of Dylan and Jake by Jason Baldinger

Outside Fort Garland, air is dust
I talked to Blanca Peak for over an hour
but conversation with a mountain can be tricky
I pass a trading post, see a couple skinny kids
crusties in black, bandanas keep dust out of lungs
they haven’t got a sign, just thumbs out
I drive past. I don’t pick up hitchhikers
I get up the road, feel bad
no one should have to stand in a dust storm
on a 100 degree day in The Great American Desert
I turn around, pull in the parking lot, they climb in

Jake, 22, jumps in the front seat
Dylan, 19, she’s in back
Both happy for the ride, Dylan has little to say
five miles passes, she’s asleep

They met in a Montana squat eight weeks ago
she’s New Orleans, he’s Mantua Springs
He guesses they fell in love. Caught a train south
tried to find New Mexico, Arizona
mostly found they weren’t welcomed

He’s front seat jittery
We talk. Alex Chilton’s “Flies on Sherbet” plays
He’s never heard Big Star, I tell him their story
I tell him about the trip
He asks me about the east
particularly curious about Georgia
I tell him hot and green
He’s not familiar with green
at least not east coast green

I ask we’re he’s headed, he’s headed home
right on my way, an easy two hour ride
I can tell he’s not excited for homecoming
I don’t press

He eventually cracks
confessional the way you can only be with strangers
He found out the other day
his ex-girl from home is pregnant
He’s not sure it’s his, but he has to go home
deal with it, deal with his mom, whose pissed
He’s not sure what Dylan’s going to do
there really ain’t no place for her
in the dust storm of accidental creation

She’s free to go, he doesn’t want her to
When he told her, she said she may head back to New Orleans
He says a friend of hers was murdered recently
she wakes up nights saying her name
she thinks her friend is calling her back
He hopes they’ll catch each other on the road
nothing is sure

I drop them, interstate edge, exit ramp in sight
a wanderer, a hanged man, a sleeping girl
the Colorado evening to swallow us

Jason Baldinger

Jason Baldinger is a poet hailing from the Appalachian hamlet of Pittsburgh. He’s the author of several books the most recent of which, the chaplet, Fumbles Revelations (Grackle and Crow) is available now, and the collection Fragments of a Rainy Season (Six Gallery Press) which is coming in September. Recent publications include the Low Ghost Anthology Unconditional Surrender, Uppagus, Lilliput Review, Rusty Truck, Dirtbag Review, In Between Hangovers, Your One Phone Call, Winedrunk Sidewalk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Nerve Cowboy Concrete Meat Press, and Heartland! Poetry of Love, Solidarity and Resistance. You can hear Jason read some poems at jasonbaldinger.bandcamp.com

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