We found a place to park
not far from the Nashville Parthenon
and hurried through the drizzle.
This was first built as a stage prop,
boards and plaster simulating marble,
for the Centennial Exposition
in eighteen ninety seven,
but stayed up by popular demand.
By nineteen thirty one it was rebuilt
in concrete and stone, with metopes
and pediment sculptures restored
by Leopold and Belle Kinney Scholz,
based on British Museum casts.
Most recently, they’ve added
an imposing guess at a lost work,
the gold and ivory Athena of Phidias,
sculpted in fiberglass by Alan LeQuire.
The body seems classical,
the head in the earlier, “severe” style.
If you build it, they will come.
While we were there, a young devotee
of Athena sat on the floor,
meditating like a Buddist.
Outside, Zeus had his way with us.
It rained and rained and rained.
Does it ever stop raining in Tennessee?
My father lives in rhythm with his garden.
Fifty quarts of black raspberries this year,
four to be picked today, holiday or not.
He spends the evening in his rocking chair,
watching half a baseball game
then reading a paperback romance.
He doesn’t say much to me or Rusty,
doesn’t want to use his hearing aid.
I wonder why he wanted us to visit.
Rusty and I dispute the lazy boy.
He hassles me by stepping on the footrest,
snapping the chair to full upright position.
I’m bleary eyed and stuffy nosed this week
from something in this humid Ohio air,
pollen or pollution, I don’t know.
Rusty won’t let me read or write very much.
He says I’m either weird, stupid, sleepy,
or freaking out, but occasionally creative.
In the dark with the radio turned loud,
so he doesn’t have to use his hearing aid,
my father listens to a baseball game.
Sometime in the sixth or seventh inning,
he turns it off, knowing how it will end.
Maybe the Cleveland Indians are winning,
maybe they’re losing, it doesn’t matter.
If a turnaround occurs, he won’t know
till he reads about it in the morning paper.
He’s never too impressed by the Indians
whether they’re winning many games or not.
He’s sure they’ll never make the playoffs,
or if they do, they won’t win the series.
The Science Museum of Minnesota
has the same stuff in a new building,
the diplodocus stupidly crowded
under the balcony of the grand hall
when it should be standing in the middle.
The road is boring and horrible,
traffic, construction delays, heat and rain.
I can’t handle any more freeways.
I’m driving two lane roads between small towns,
taking photographs of barns and silos.
I’m watching Rusty go “splashy-splash”
in Lake Poinsett in eastern South Dakota.
I’m tired of the work of driving and camping.
I don’t really want to go home
but I can’t think of anything better to do.
Rusty and I were Laura Ingalls Wilder tourists
in De Smets, the little town on the prairie.
Every year of elementary school
my class read one of Mrs. Wilder’s books.
I had to fill a spiral notebook with lists
of each chapter’s similes and metaphors.
Log cabins, dugouts, and covered wagons
seemed as remote as Egyptians or cavemen
from life in a city of trucks and television.
Recently, I read the diary she kept
traveling from South Dakota to Missouri,
talking with other young pioneers
in covered wagons going the other way
about conditions here or there,
which seemed very like conversations
of hitchhiking hippies ninety years later.
Older women in calico farm dresses
told us about who lived in which house,
where we could see the cottonwood trees
Pa Ingalls planted in eighteen eighty,
and watch the birds at Silver Lake,
filled for the first time in many years
and not yet back on the map.
A dirt road lined with split rail fences
a grassy ridge with distant mountains.
Over there, a herd of thirty pronghorn,
more than I’ve ever seen in my life.
Here’s something worthy of the video camera,
a few seconds of nature show footage
followed by half a minute’s worth
of pixellated enlargements of rapidly fleeing
flying saucers or loch ness monsters.
Oh well. But then I left the battery charger
on the roof of the car when I drove away.
By the time I realized what happened,
the battery charger was crushed by a truck.
I had only a couple minutes battery left.
In the next campground next morning,
a female moose glimpsed in the lodgepole pines
on the granite slope above our campsite,
a dim, grainy moose followed by static.
copyright © 2005 Carl Miller
Painting, “Cow Lake”: 2002, watercolor and colored pencil on paper, 9 x 12 inches, detail 7.5 x 9 inches.