Jeff Burt: “Bakersfield”


Stuck outside of Bakersfield at a truck stop
at night with the temperature at ninety-nine
with a few coins and a broken credit card
facing into the wind because turning my back
made my shirt like a sail, the smell of parched earth
and sere grass so strong I fought even the thought
of a match and words like ignition, passion, or strike,
saw a snake come to the asphalt on the dark side
of the lamppost, stretching as if to cool, and a crow
that landed a few feet away spreading its wings
for a brief moment of air conditioning.

I tried to sleep standing, waiting for morning
and Shell to authorize my card, but when dawn came
found myself sprawled on the pavement
like a drunk or a victim of a drive-by,
snake missing, crow coming closer,
more beginning to land.


Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods. He works in mental health. He has work in ucity, Eclectica, Rabid Oak, and Williwaw Journal. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2019 Heart poetry prize.

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