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Tournament of Destruction

ISSUE:  Winter 1993
                     Santa Fe Speedway

No one’s here for the polite processional
and so we cheer the sudden end of protocol
when drivers rev their souped-up engines
in a look-at-me strut,
firing as unpredictably as love.
Slowly the red sky darkens.
Lights go up around the oval track
like the circuitry of sexual excitement
waking the nerves. When the serious music
of speed begins, thousands
of cubic inches of adulterated power
vibrate the wooden bleachers
and every paying customer
tracks its course up his spine,
up and around the thrilled muscle
of his heart. Crazily
the cars blur sideways into the first curve,
pitching fist-size chunks of clay
off the track, and obligingly
you lean into me. That, too, addresses my heart
like your absence when you lean away
as you must at the next curve,
the warm rub of shoulder to shoulder
gone suddenly cool. The cars circle
in dust so thick we eat it, take it in
to veil the eye, torment the inner ear,
and I think how we, too, repeat
our ceremony of injury.

Little wonder this place speaks to you,
you who are never anywhere except in motion,
you who cannot get enough of speed,
you with your habit of anarchy—
no sleep, bad food, the reckless
disarray you call home, no wonder
you understand the object
is not catch and hold but chase and pass
after the brief neck and neck of parallels
as again one car slips up against another
and they touch down the full length
of their bodies and race that way at breakneck speed
until metal tears like paper
calling into question an old idea of safety
and one of them pulls free
with only the track ahead,
blank as the sky, unbridled.


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