Press "Enter" to skip to content

Dispatch from the Edge

By Peter Anderson

Highway 17, the road I drive south to Alamosa, is also known as “The Cosmic Highway.” Why? UFOs I suppose. At the very least, alien aficionados can find each other on the observation deck at the UFO Watchtower. And then there’s the billboard, earth as seen from the moon, the great revelatory image of the twentieth century with the caption: “Good planets are hard to find.” I hear talk of strange lights that cannot be explained, though I have never seen one myself. I have seen the occasional mirage. Vapors rising from our high desert wetlands create strange illusions, like the few buildings in Moffat soaring into the sky as if part of Manhattan has been transplanted overnight, or San Antonio peak, 100 miles to the south, floating above the valley. Sometimes this valley is what it ain’t.

[InContentAdTwo] But a mirage is usually a winter phenomenon, the result of seasonal inversions. This time of year, if there is anything cosmic here, it manifests as power line poles, hypnotic in their rhythmic passing, drawing one’s gaze toward a distant vanishing point, or maybe into a few perilous moments of shut-eye. Be careful! You may be transported through time and space into the lane of an oncoming semi, or like me, you may beam across that lane altogether, and wake up with the chico and rabbitbrush slapping at your bumper. At night there are ghosts, like the coyote you clip with your right fender. When you approach the carcass to pull it off the road, damned if it doesn’t rise up resurrected and skedaddle through a barbed wire fence. Sometimes you’re not sure where you are – is this Mosca or Hooper coming up? – or if you will ever get there, wherever there is. It as if the spaces between these little towns are elastic or maybe you’re just experiencing the expanding nature of the universe itself. Will this cosmic highway ever end? When the moon is gone and you see a long straight road and nothing but stars up ahead, as if you could drive by Polaris, the North Star, and right up the handle of the Little Dipper, you may decide that it really doesn’t matter … you could play it either way.

Peter Anderson writes about geographical and cultural edges in this column and in a new collection of flash prose and prose poems called Heading Home: Field Notes published by Conundrum Press (