Rumble (Road trips, 97-99)
The keys are greasy evidence. Something double heavy in the space before those square chords set in. Then that brass-knuckles break. Who wants to christen the replacement home for the one that burned last summer? This woman named Madelin and her fiancé Eric. Three weeks should be plenty. Rumble version. Rugby practice. Folded paper. Tiny doom. Thrown tortillas moistened beneath their feet. Earlier, they stirred textured vegetable protein in a saucepan at a party. That fitful nap, sitting straight in broad daylight in a parking lot near Chattanooga. This leg back will be full of hallucinations, that’s what 22 hours do. Gassed up on half a rent check never cashed, account closed on the way out of town. So many ferris wheels. Cricket and Elizabeth got busted in Utah and missed the Minna Street opening with underpants on the walls. Perfect weather for target practice out back after the housewarming. Andy’s in the closet, it’s where he lives now. You can’t stop in the District without getting another ticket—they watch your plates out here. Norma asked one room or two. Who knew? Texas was one’s realm allegedly. Alabama was solitary, despite the family roots. After the multiplex, too much take-out in a half-occupied room. His pants are torn where he fell to his knees on Greenpoint Avenue, temporarily losing the keys in the street. Who does Natural Bridge without packing in? Sleeping or reading for days on new cream carpet. It’s all defense. Twenty dollars at a rotten motel near midnight (the Zia, I think), even nearer to the railroad tracks. No one dared touch the bathroom fixtures. The door’s story was one of being kicked in repeatedly. The seams showed it. At Fort Funston, he waded out far enough to be sick imperceptibly and returned to photograph their pose at a spot marked “The Spot.” He shot Matthew from a distance, atop a boulder up the beach, the singular silhouette in a backlit polaroid. A self-portrait. Someone ducked down in the backseat to cheat the double rate. Cold cuts warm in the glove compartment, frybread cools in cellophane. After two days it was fodder for shit-talk come home. Bakersfield and Barstow taxed the AC, which had clogged and soaked the floor mats. That smell. Tents pitched silently in darkness, but more quickly each night. Anger is like that. Sunburned on a small yacht in the Gulf, just for the sake of remembered luxury. The headlights quit. The same breakfast every morning, and once a broken window pane. Shoot us a Waco, Little America. Wyoming’s only got half a proper surface. Everything drops out of it, so don’t look away. Rev and hit a shallow pothole, maybe that will trick the headlights back on. Out came the Lord Calvert’s so only Dan was driving then. Matthew videoed screams when that man ran a garbage can across the interstate in St. Louis. Where next? In Lexington or Louisville the lights returned. He kept the keys in when stopped, low beams lit despite the sun. A single album warped in the trunk. It’s unsettling where the surface streets have names of only numbers, no one gets anywhere. Everything that breaks can be replaced, but nothing is to be discarded. Near the end, the golden hand drops the apple. The arm sails toward the label, and pauses, caught in the looped crackle of a terminal groove.
PARTICK WILLIAMS is a poet and academic librarian living in Central New York. His recent work appears in publications including 3:AM Magazine, Hot Metal Bridge, The Mackinac, and The Collapsar. He is the editor of Really System, a journal of poetry and extensible poetics. He has fond memories of Oregon Route 62 West toward Crater Lake. He is less enthusiastic about Antelope Island Road, Salt Lake City, Utah.