Standing out here, alone on the road that used to be Route 66 as it moves across the Mojave Desert, you stare at this broken down gas station crumbling into the sand, and you think about those loons you heard in Canada. They called to each other, back and forth across the lake, and the sun was coming down. When the first one called, your dad put his hand on your shoulder and said, “Wait.”
“Just wait.” Then a loon maybe a half-mile away answered, and you gasped a little because you understood that you knew the language of birds, and all it took was for your dad to help you to listen. “Wait some more,” he said. Sure enough a third loon called back, its mournfulness bouncing across the water.
You think about the old man, and how he would have loved it out here, would have loved to see this gas station being swallowed slowly. Then again, maybe he wouldn’t. He drove out to Los Angeles on Route 66. This was a place he knew. Maybe it would be tragic for him. Maybe he would have wept.
There’s only one way to know, so you call to him: “Dad?”
is the author of 19 books of poetry and fiction including his latest, Life: Orange to Pear (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020). His poems, stories, and essays are published in hundreds of magazines and journals. His work has appeared on Garrison Keillor’s daily show, The Writer’s Almanac; has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart Prize; was selected for publication in The Best Small Fictions 2016 (TBSF); and was a semi-finalist for TBSF 2018.
Brantingham is a fiction editor at The Chiron Review and teaches at Mt. San Antonio College, where he coordinates the creative writing program and runs the annual creative writing conference, Culturama. He was the first poet laureate of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. He is writer-in-residence at the dA Center for the Arts in Pomona, California, and co-creator of the San Gabriel Valley Literary Festival and the Valley Poets Reading Series, which has featured poets and writers from around the world.
Author’s website: johnbrantingham.com
⚡ Objects of Curiosity, a collection of Brantingham’s ekphrastic poems (Sasse Museum of Art, 2020)
the Deer, one of his two haibun in KYSO Flash (Issue 8,
Four prose poems in Serving House Journal (Issue 7, Spring 2013), including
A Man Stepping Into a River and
Poem to the Child Who I Almost Adopted