Poem: A Meseta State of Mind

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A Meseta State of Mind

by Chuck Johnson | Champlin, MN

My Tilley hat and I tussle,
it, wanting to remain on my crown,
a shield from the scorching sun,
me, yearning to mop puddles pooling on my scalp
that breed near as fast as I sponge;
still many miles
from the day’s most hellish hours,
but Hades’ suburbs extend far
so my two-step with Tilley toils on.

Here heavens hug fields
in an unending, uninterrupted line,
encircling in all directions
as if God flipped His sapphire encrusted chalice
upside down upon this tabletop
we call the Meseta;
treeless, hill-less, streamless;
even the sunflowers suffer
under their namesake’s stubborn stare,
stunted sad shadows
of their proud towering cousins
in the lowlands.

The hypnotic crunch
of boots on gravel,
the titch, titch, titch
of walking stick on rock,
and over,
and over,
always the same,
same endless view,
same relentless heat,
same metrical beat.

Like my surroundings,
my mind is set free to extend

And time passes.

In the distance the mesmeric monotony is marred
by an outcrop of a solitary tree
girdled by bramble that reaches like toddler to parent
clinging to the lowest branches,
an awning from the sun’s unforgiving gaze,
precious real estate upon which two pilgrims sprawl.
I approach, unsnap my pack, lay it to rest
and sit, bathing in the miracle of shade.

More weary pilgrims approach
eyeing our shrinking darkened patch,
so we make room,
some lying, some sitting,
none standing,
none anxious to rise again and resume,
so we close eyes,
and listen
to the breeze dance with the leaves above,
to the grasshoppers bicker with the bees,
to the scrapes and sighs of other pilgrims,
all of us too exhausted to attempt conversation.

I look about,
strangers yet brothers,
from everywhere,
an impromptu gathering of the United Nations,
and I realize
there’s nowhere I’d rather be.

Editor’s note: This poem is from Johnson’s collection, So I Walk: Poems, Songs, Legends and Lore of the Camino de Santiago, released in December 2023.

This poem was featured in our Fall 2023 issue of La Concha. The theme was “Seasons of the Way”, and you can find the full issue in our archive here

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