The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Driving to Idaho

Rachael Conlin Levy

The squiggly line moved over the snowy land, marched up the hill and over its humped back. Two straggling cows joined its end, followed nose to tail the line of cows that the man and his horse read. Black cow, white space. Black then white then black again, each cow a word, each space a pause in a landscape of blank verse. The line was thirsty and hungry, having slept through a bitter night and woke to a water trough frozen into a block of ice and grass that cut the tongue. Thin sunshine smeared itself over a thicker layer of snow that covered rabbit brush and sage. Grasses bowed under the weight of ice. The desert was a crumpled paper smoothed flat. The cowboy was cold. A bandana covered his mouth and nose, but there was nothing he could do for his eyes, which watered in the cold and iced his cheeks. He nudged the final cows to hurry along, and the squiggly line ran alongside the highway that flowed out of the Blue Mountains and dropped into La Grande. Steam rose from the cut in the hillside made by the road. Smaller clouds of steam rose from the cows. The moans and mooing of the suffering verbs joined the sound of semi-trucks breaking around the curves. In the puffs of steam and breaths of space, the cowboy read. Her eyes were like champagne. The line peaked the hill and black cow and white space pooled in the cold morning. Words were warm bodies yearning for home, and nothing more was written that day.


“Idaho” sung by Josh Ritter.

Blue Mountains.

6 responses to “Driving to Idaho”

  1. Andrea says:

    Absolutely gorgeous–lyrical and alliterative and figurative and evocative. Wonderful stuff.

  2. Denise says:

    Reading this made me feel like I was being let in on all of the secrets behind a painting.

  3. Just thinking about you…missing your posts. Hope you are well. xx

  4. Beth says:

    You took me there. Beautiful, Rachael.

  5. Glad you’re along for the ride, Beth.

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