Oilfield lights extend for miles,
a thin band along the edge of the hills
flickering in the haze
so that they seem to move:
refugees escaping from sentience.

In the unwinnable civil war
of mind against itself,
there’s at least a truce on some nights;
on others—not so much.

Those ox carts loaded with regret
never stop, even if
a bone weary driver finally nods off.


Don Thompson, currently the inaugural Poet Laureate of Kern County, is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Back Roads (winner of the 2008 Sunken Garden Poetry Prize), Everything Barren Will Be BlessedLocal ColorA Journal of the Drought Year, From Here On: Four Sunday Drives and, most recently, Outdoor Chamber Music (2018). He and his wife, Chris, live on her family’s farm where he continues to write about the Valley as he has been doing for over fifty years. Visit his website, San Joaquin Ink.