Feature > Poetry
Kamilah Aisha Moon

Kamilah Aisha Moon

Kamilah Aisha Moon's work has been featured in several journals and anthologies, including Harvard Review, jubilat, The Awl, Poem-A-Day for the Academy of American Poets, Superstition Review and Gathering Ground. Her poems and prose have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Lambda Literary Prize and the Audre Lorde Publishing Triangle Award. Moon is the author of She Has a Name (Four Way Books) and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College.
Kurt Brown's engagement with the ephemeral in his work has been of great value to me. Awe, swiftly followed by the bold decision to always discover and privilege the beauty inside what is often a foreboding reality. Like the line in his poem "Wake-up Call," he preferred "gripping his transience/like a charm," and he was never "ready to take his seat" among the resigned. He wrote as he lived, tasting as many of Louise Erdrich's "falling apples" as possible, and savoring the wine of every fermenting thing. Whereas most wrestle with mortality, in his poems he almost dances with it, which fortifies readers in their efforts to do the same.

"Road Report" is one of these meditations; a high-octane one that manages to achieve the same floating effect one feels inside a car or plane at high speeds. The hyper-awareness of one's surroundings; the insulated capsule of time to ponder thoroughly what flashes by. I love how he employs the panoramic view of the desert landscape, its "red arenas" and "ravaged cliffs." The apt allusion of life as "a rodeo of slow erosion." As his "rented Mustang bucks/ the wind," it seems he encourages us all to power through the "desolation" we encounter, to fully appreciate "when caf├ęs bloom like cactus/ after drought."

When I first drove through the West Brown describes so astutely, I was surprised by how comforting it was to me. I grew up in the green bosom of Tennessee, going around and over mountains, sailing on rivers and lakes. Nevada felt like Mars with its red foothills and sandstone cliffs bearing the full force of the elements, the absence of trees as we barreled toward Death Valley. Yet I felt such a peace, struck by the beauty of desert flowers flourishing in an environment that doesn't readily supply what they need. I was inspired by the resourcefulness required of the living there. All of that space and unfettered sky opened me in vital, essential ways.

"Road Report" embodies this spirit and embraces the truth of the present being "a dying town" with vigor. It transports us like hitchhikers along his path and grants permission "to flee" and be free through one man's example. I also feel like he's conveying to readers that we are behind the wheel—not the armadillos in the middle of the highway. We always have agency in how we ride out our lives, and isn't this a glorious thing?! Yes there are "black clouds," but we keep moving anyway into the future and its "glittering/Hotel." Yes, hotel. A shiny way station in the distance that only lets us rest long enough to begin again, not built to be a final destination.

Like the man Kurt Brown was, this well-crafted, assured poem is full of an informed, determined hope.

Road Report

Driving west through sandstone's
red arenas, a rodeo of slow erosion
cleaves these plains, these ravaged cliffs.
This is cowboy country. Desolate. Dull. Except
on weekends, when cafés bloom like cactus
after drought. My rented Mustang bucks
the wind—I'm strapped up, wide-eyed,
busting speed with both heels, a sure grip
on the wheel. Black clouds maneuver
in the distance, but I don't care. Mileage
is my obsession. I'm always racing off,
passing through as though the present
were a dying town I'd rather flee.
What matters is the future, its glittering
hotel. Clouds loom closer, big as Brahmas
in the heavy air. The radio crackles
like a shattered rib. I'm in the chute.
I check the gas and set my jaw. I'm almost there.


Stephen Dunn

Stephen Dunn
On Kurt Brown...


Charles Simic

Charles Simic


Thomas Lux

Thomas Lux
At the Blue Gates