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An American Roadside Elegy

ISSUE:  Winter 1989
Already the creamy Volkswagen rocks back
into the dust, its smooth dome
split like a man’s head,
gouged by gravel, one or two
Budweiser cans squashed
among whiskers of chickweed.
They are watching, who yet own
the night’s little pockets
of darkness where moonlight crawls.
We remember our brother who died
mouth open in this red dirt.
Murdered, we say. It’s Spring,
a green urge on the sides
of concrete walls at the Dew-Drop Inn.
They were here, Joe and the girl,
white, glued to his brown rib,
until the pond of the hill
lay silver as a bedsheet
wrinkled, and their wanting done.
There’s little to go on. The sound
of glass speaking, a raw instant
the chassis rocked up to hang
free a hand in the window,
as if she chose to sleep.
What did the stone say
they couldn’t answer ever?
The morning comes cool, sweet.
James Brown touts a new bag
on the radio. Daffodils hang.
At the country store we stop years
later, getting out at the scene,
flashers on, gravel hissing
as always. Cows watch.
Fists of Southern boys pose
on fenders, sweaty, as if they
know they wait in the truth.
As if they expected to be him,
but it wasn’t their time
to go face-up, to grin
into the sun and the moon
so steadily. As he liked to do.


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