Hitchhiking Through the Wilderness

by Midnight Moon
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, January 2021
Judged by Nicole Greaves

I slept alone in the desert
the sands & the dry wind washed my dreams
I woke up & found an armadillo nearby
Later, in a thrift store, I found an armadillo bead

I kept it in my carved, wooden box
I said, Someday, I’ll make a necklace with it
You, my Father, drove me to the mouth of the arroyo
You felt guilty, you said it was almost a criminal offense

To leave me alone there
But because I’m not a baby I travelled unhurt
until a vaquero warned me
it’s too dangerous, It’s time to turn back.

This poem is about my Mother
and how she didn’t see me for the last 30 years
of her life. How crazy they were &
how I vowed to never see them again

But when I tried to any way, they said no.
That’s OK, I said. Traveling with a Quebecoise,
at the music festival, she translated a song
I have no mother or father, the sun is my Father, my Mother is the sky

Often, poems are testimonies or declarations about our journey through life. These poems bear witness to help transform our individual, generational, or collective suffering. They work to decipher truth in our memories and find in ourselves what is sacred. “Hitchhiking Through the Wilderness” is a traveling poem of such witness and self-discovery. In the beginning, the speaker is alone in the “desert,” rising out of dusty “dreams.” The “I,” however, is not alone for long. An “armadillo” is close, who comes with its strength, shield and quickly becomes a “bead” to keep, protected in a “wooden box” for the right time to wear as a talisman. The poem then dives into its heart, to the parents. First, the father who leaves the speaker alone to brave the elements. Luckily, a “vaquero” is there to warn the traveler to “turn back.” Here, the speaker confronts a mother’s abandonment of the last “30 years” and revisits how he “vowed” to stay away. The heart, however, tries to visit but is rejected again. The speaker responds with the very pedestrian, “That’s OK,” as if saying, “I’m ok.” Then he finds another traveler, a “Quebecoise,” who, in translation, connects him to nature in that mythical way, which speaks to our very human quest to find belonging. There is, also, an underlying sense of the political here, movement and word origins that conjure up colonization, propel us to think about how we must break from what has made and governs us to find our own identity in something purer, more fundamental. Kunitz, a master of the parent poem, noted: “My problem was not whether to acknowledge my losses and frustrations but how to transform them from a destructive experience into a creative one.” Here, the poet has done just that. --Nicole Greaves