Daniel Tobin

True West
July 9, 2014 Tobin Daniel

True West

For Eamonn and Drucilla Wall


We return by foot from pre-plantation oaks,

The last un-hacked remnant Druid bowers

Extolled in guidebooks, haunt of the true west,

Having eschewed the angler’s holiday

On the lough, the off-road to The Quiet Man Cottage,

A sundown red as Maureen O’Hara’s hair.

You might be driving early along Route 40,

Then south toward Las Cruces, the Trinity Site,

With your kids in back for the big adventure

Deep into the vast magician’s coat of America.

Outside your car the ancient sea still rolls

Out of phase with its unearthly denizens,

The seabed now desert to your ranging eyes,

And Roswell’s haze extraterrestrial on the flats.

We walk to the village in the gloaming’s softness,

Cow patties on the laneway, a well-lit Spar

Where the road declines to a weathered cross,

It’s Ogham washed by centuries of rain

Into fossil whirls of ciphers, wind’s lost rubric

Known only to stone—the lichen’s Braille.

Or maybe you turn north on the Spanish Trail,

The old empire’s highway an interstate now

Through pinyon and pueblo, the casino lights

Blue-shifting off the shoulder as you drive

Above Tesuque for the Sangre de Cristos,

Their heights like a vista in Ford’s The Searchers.

Rest the night, friends, at some quiet rancho:

Poblanos, empanadas, and tequila anejo

Will set you easy for the journey ahead.

We’re at the pub now, my long love and I,

Pints in our hands, good grub on the Agha.

Above our numbered heads the wheels are turning,

Our wests swerving east to greet us on the road.

Let’s keep the locals solid for a thousand years.

Let’s meet sometime in the next far country.



Daniel Tobin is the author of nine books of poems, including From Nothing, winner of the Julia Ward Howe Award,The Stone in the Air, his suite of versions from the German of Paul Celan, and most recently Blood Labors,named one of the Ten Best Books of 2018 by the New York Times. He is also the author of the critical studies Awake in AmericaPassage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney, and On Serious Earth, forthcoming in 2019. Tobin has edited The Book of Irish American Poetry from the Eighteenth Century to the Present, Light in Hand: Selected Early Poems of Lola RidgePoet’s Work, Poet’s Play: Essays on the Practice and the Art (with Pimone Triplettand To The Many: Collected Early Works of Lola Ridge, which received a Special Commendation from the Poetry Society. His poetry has won the “The Discovery/The Nation Award,” The Robert Penn Warren Award, the Robert Frost Fellowship, the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize, the Stephen J. Meringoff Award, the Massachusetts Book Award, the Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, among other honors. He teaches at Emerson College in Boston.