avoid the chili, the stew
that will plague you until Dakota.
Whatever happens, don't fight with locals,
even over an insult. They've nothing to lose
except more years in Rock Springs,
a thousand more meals at the diner.
Ignore the buffoon at the counter
who disapproves of your skin.
His penis, sadly, was stolen by Coyote
and will never be returned.
He's searched the red desert each day since
and found the tracks circle back
to this town where, despite its name,
nothing springs from rock and rain is rare.
Leave the biggest tip you can.
Their lives will be hard and strangers
will always appear, distressed by the food
and scenery, anxious and able to leave.
Their lives will be long in dry air, hot sun,
and cold that puckers the bone.
Some day the last person left will admit
the whole place was a mistake
and closing a door, will depart,
leaving gas station signs to swing and rust
and rabbits to inhabit the rooms
where sad-faced whores turned tricks
for truckers and dreamed of Vegas,
of one-armed bandits that came in coins,
and streets lit by more than stars' dim light,
and highways that led somewhere.
Chris Ransick lives in Englewood, Colorado. Advice for Visitors to Rock Springs took first place in the 1995 Poiesis poetry contest. Poiesis can be reached at Box 53, Indian Hills, CO 80454.
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