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).