TO COMMEMORATE National Poetry Month, I am posting the second of four of my poems published in the Fall 2018 issue of “Fifth Wednesday Journal.”
We rode north each May, straight
through Texas and the prairies of Oklahoma,
Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas,
stopping only for gas, pit stops
and bags full of burgers from roadside
diners. Dusk was the hardest, loneliest.
The looming darkness forced us
into the world where silence
retreats to review its secrets,
making us strangers together
in a rolling time capsule.
The sun’s departure brought an end
to the banter and ushered in meditation.
I became obsessed with the families
in houses along the road, notroaming
gypsies in rolling metal cocoons;
blessed with the privilege of permanence.
As blackness covered the land, I would close
my eyes until the drone of the V-8
and the taca-ta-taca of tires ticking off
concrete squares coaxed me to sleep.
Throughout the night I awakened
to the sweet smell of black coffee poured
from the thermos into the plastic cup
cradled by the sure hand of the driver –
my father or Norberto, my brother.
Or the whiff of the seductive scent
of a matchstick’s orgasmic burst
and it’s predictable glowing kiss
on hopeful cigarette lips.
Or the intoxicating fumes of fuel
flowing into the battered and muddy side
of the green Plymouth as the pump’s pings
counted out the gallons of gasoline.
Each time I asked, “Donde estamos?”
But it didn’t really matter where we were.
What I really sought/yearned for was
the reassurance of a familiar voice.
“Wichita,” would come the whispered reply.
Or, “Watertown,” or “Ada,” or “Fargo.”
Comforted anew, I’d go back to sleep,
until the next time we stopped.
Occasionally I’d awaken
to a darkened stillness as the car
set motionless on the side of the road:
my father and Beto had driven
as far as they could and it was time to pay
nature the due it had been denied.
Only the chirping of crickets
in the grass by the road and the yelping
of dogs from an unseen farm
competed with the sounds of slumber.
Then, from a distance came first the hum,
then the rumble, then the violent roar
of a tractor-trailer. When it passed, the car
nodded and rocked in acknowledgement,
causing somebody up front to shift positions,
causing someone next to me – Carmen?
Dora? Mariana? – to do the same. All
would be quiet again until the next hum,
rumble and roar produced the same effect:
another shift, another elbow or knee digging
into my side: reminders, even as we slept,
of our impermanence. When the sun rose at last,
we were rolling again and my bewildered eyes
could see a new, flatter terrain. The fresh day
found us closer to our familiar summer home
with its black land and silvery grain elevators.
I was once more in our reality, cradled
in the stale nurturing warmth of our hulking
sedan. “Ya mero?” one of us asked.
“Sí, almost there,“ one of us replied.