Past the sign, “Notary—Night Crawlers
for Sale,” past the Free Will Baptist Church
with its squat, smug spire, the black eyes
of abandoned stores; past roses run wild,
daylilies and mustard tangled together
around the husk of a burned house; past two
oversized metal swans gliding on a pure-dirt yard:
we curve down the back slopes of Asheville—
a taxi and I, in my car, as if towed behind.
Six heads inside beside the driver’s: a family, earless,
maybe moving from one of these unpainted wood houses
to another, paper-bagged belongings in their arms.
When we stop at the light, children bob
over the back seat to stare: where have we
come from? who comes after? Their faces,
above their beards of chocolate and dirt,
seem too pale, or truly white. Twenty years ago,
in Tennessee just over the Carolina line, I saw
such skin: two children asleep in metal breadbins,
covered with old newspapers and flies.
The light goes green; the children’s heads
jerk back. An adult must be saying: “Sit
down, turn around, you kids,” and they stare
ahead. Toward what? Here the cab bears right,
up a street of poorer houses, weedier lots.
I read on the door, “Blue Bird Cab”—not
Yellow, or Jim’s, or City. A child’s hand
reaches out a window—star in the shadowing
street—to grasp at the cooling wind, as if
this battered, pale-blue car were truly a bluebird
and they headed for happiness on its wings.