Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Against Gravity


Blue sky, ungated clouds, & on a sand-pitted
highway sign the number 10 stands out--
a minor footnote in a monograph on drugs,

a reference instructing the reader to study
my nap on the floor of a Ford Econoline
summer after high school. As if rest, & only rest,

were what we found ourselves made of, sometimes.
Though rest is only one trait, actually, when
you've been hitching between Tucson & El Paso

and gotten picked up by a van. The equally ingenious
others look like tie-dye & restlessness, like
rest stops & silvered heather, maybe jimson,

and a little lantana raising its nippled red speckles
into the scent of sagebrush rained on & drying.
They got me high, three men & a woman costumed

estimably in the style of out-of-work jesters,
jovial people of 1971, wearing the standard issue--
fusty cloches, velveteen pants, embroidered emblems,

with shiny balls like cat bells dangling
off one or two ears. For one a self-etched tattoo,
its motto the equation ACID=BLISS framed

by a multiplying fungus or exploding chloroplast.
For another, a fu manchu & fedora. A synaptic Apache
snake cinching the woman's frayed macrame belt.

Mirror sunglasses for all. And small mirrors,
like tiny ponds, frozen pools, had been sewn
onto the woman's India print blouse by some

Kashmiri laborer, who, if he could have looked into
them, might have seen me dozing off, stoned
on pan hash, bits of myself reflecting back,

scattered, a tired grin from the woman's
right sleeve, the puffed wrist, pale ear at the tip
of a breast, nose on her stomach. And haven't I

always loved being broken up & abrogated by sleep?
But when I woke we had pulled off the road
into a ranch. From the tape deck "Brain Salad Surgery"

blared, a form of premature senility disguised
as endless synthesizer riffs. For a second, in the nazz
and compression of noise, still stoned, I thought

they intended to kill me. An intuition
so melodramatic & dumb the sight of two of the men
kissing in the front seat had to wipe it away.

I had never seen two men kiss, & the surprise,
which in another setting might have shocked,
even disgusted, my sheltered murmurous little self,

somehow reassured me. The kiss implying
not so much gentility as distraction.
Then, out of the eddies of shade, the woman

ran, having tossed off her incongruous imitation
alligator heels, naked now except for
purple tights, she ran & turned cartwheels

three times across the yard. Gravity.
Gravity. They had wanted to visit a friend
who, they claimed, was connected to anti-

gravity research being conducted there.
Merely a windbreak occupied by
an adobe shed and barn, it seemed abandoned,

as if during the night the hard rains,
the lightning, had chased away the enemy
of gravity, & now we were to take his place.
                                             -David Rivard, from Wise Poison (Graywolf, 1996).



  1. Bruce Berry was a working man
    He used to load that Econoline van.
    A sparkle was in his eye
    But his life was in his hands.

    --Neil Young, "Tonight's the Night

    Think I'll
    roll another number
    for the road,
    I feel able to get under any load.
    Though my feet
    aren't on the ground,
    I been standin' on the sound
    Of some open-hearted people
    goin' down.

    --Neil Young, "Roll Another Number (For the Road)"

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