Jonah in Nevada

Michael Henson


He did not go to Nineveh.

He went instead to the west.

When the bus broke down outside of Reno,

he took that for a sign

and hitchhiked into the city.

Two beers, four beers,

he watched the work of the strippers.

Six beers, eight,

he had become such a curse

a pair of bouncers grabbed him at each arm

and launched him into the street.

Ten beers, a dozen

and he was swallowed by oblivion

and lay cramped in the belly of amnesia

for three days.

He woke in the desert

with the sun straight above him like a spike.

His skull was drumming

and his mouth was caked with salt.

His backpack had been stolen

and some fist had gifted him

with bruises above his eye

and in the arcades of his ribs.

His face and arms

were blistered by the withering sun.

He stared at the empty road

and tried to conjure

which way would take him

back to where he had derailed.

Aching, broke,

and splitting with thirst,

he could not then discern

the working of the unreadable winds of Mercy.

What now? he thought. What now?

Off in the distance,

jackrabbit small,

a car shimmered toward him.




Michael Henson has published a novel, a book of stories, and a poetry chapbook. His most recent work is Crow Call (West End Press, 2006), an extended elegy for a murdered friend, the homeless activist Buddy Gray. Henson lives in Cincinnati.