Austin Poetry #253-1, Saturday, September 28, 2002
Featured Poetry Supplement
Theme: On The Road Again
#254 - On The Road Again, Part II
#255 - They Call The Wind Maria
#256 - Apple Cider and Cinnamon Sticks
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So many submissions for this theme, I'm going to run
On The Road Again, Part II next week.
This week's selections include:
1. "Return from the Oasis - for Edwin Buffaloe" by John Herndon
2. "Moving Time?" by Megan McDonald
3. "To The Road" by Wolfgang Golden
4. "There Are Many Roads!" by Ingeborg Carsten-Miller
5. "Caprice" by Michael Brown
6. "A Sign Reads, No Road Ahead" by Orania Hamilton
7. "Milestone, Saskatchewan" by Paul McLaughlin
8. "To a Modern Troubadour" by Ursula T. Gibson
9. "Tour of Duty" by Thomas Fortenberry
10. "Van" by Meredith Karen Laskow
1. Return from the Oasis
for Edwin Buffaloe by John Herndon
Me and Ed came home from Parras de la Fuente,
Grape-Arbor by the Springs, or belonging to
Mr. Fountain, whoever in hades he might be,
Chihuahua Desert baddest-ass-lands and
barest burned-out mountain, channeled scab
and sudden luscious pecans a hundred feet high,
prodigious peach, apple, pomegranate orchards,
monster figs, the tallest avocado by far I've seen,
bouganvillea, cedar, palm, import eucalyptus
oldest viticulture in North America, prolific
bodegas familiares ferment too-sweet wine, better
go for the brandy, Madero, Francisco--Frank Wood?--
Juarista blockhead idealist ran the revolution
from San Antonio, later Presidente fiery
favorite son martyred, and cold green water bursting
sweet cracks in the dry ground, Estanque de la Luz,
reservoir of light, the Barton Springs of Mexico,
baptismal font, water you want to swim in,
catfish, carp, perch fat as your clasped hands, look up to
overlooking Iglesia del Santo Madero
white chapel mitered in flat rock capping the conical
hill, canonical, lording it over humble
dust-colored adobes where people labor below
and god dwells above, forever and ever, amen.
This is me and Ed, tocayos, we start before dawn
alone on the autopista, the empty cuota
--relieves congestion for those who can pay,
the masses will just have to tough out the traffic,
topes in every little town-- east across the flats
into the hills, intensest sunrise behind Saltillo,
just stirring, restless in its last sleep, tossing
and turning in its mountainous bastion, immaculate
daylight showed why, the vilest maquiladora sky
shadowed the subjected plain, powers, thrones, dominions,
Titans of industry, blissful, indifferent gods who never
die respire two-to-ten-micron particulates,
mothers and babies at the bus stop in surgical masks,
made a wrong turn in the gloom and haze, the seventh circle,
the third round, the violent against God, nature and art,
the barren wood and the burning sands labyrinthine,
avaricious wrangle at length blessed relief,
so we thought, climbing Purgatorial mountains
gasping darkness visible, palpable and oh
so nosey-- Where are you when we need you,
vaunted olfactory fatigue?--cow hides hair-on
sauteed in polystyrene, butyric acid baked
with pig skin and chicken feathers, wet wool
and wet dogs slow-roasted on a bed of burning tires,
wet garbage and spit-soaked cigar stubs, a bucketful
of ripened fish guts two days standing in the sun,
sulphur dioxide, stewed sewage and Jesus Christ--
writhing through the mountain pass, we ran up a rise,
popped out of the cloud, panting and weeping
and choking on sick laughter, gulped and plunged,
mephitic, Mephistophelian fog closing
over our heads like water, the Houston Ship Channel,
or Cancer Alley of the Mississippi.
Brought a tear to the most cynical of eyes,
born and raised in Baytown, for Christ's sake,
LA, Mexico City, Beijing, I've seen it all,
and Monterrey was invisible that day,
the whole northern tier of the Sierra Madre
white limestone ramparts, cactus shaggy oak-pine forest,
cloud forest under a cloud, not one to be proud of,
the most beautiful places on earth
calcined, carbonized and carcinogened,
quite literally weepy no matter how jaded
the strange brew burned the conjunctiva so,
right then and there, monstrance and admonition
between the lanes of the crowded, divided highway,
enormous, colossal monument to progress,
propaganda ploy, or mocking threat, or both,
and I quote: "Concretizando su futura, hoy."
© John Herndon
2. Moving Time? By Megan McDonald
Moving time again.
Another four years.
Moving time again.
Where? Here, there everywhere.
5 schools in 7 years.
Hard to make new friends,
Lose old friends, hard to keep them
though easier with the world wide web.
Moving time again.
Now grown and out of Dad's moving shadow,
settled in one state roots - digging,
NOT this girl, like a tree, I will just stay and grow with you.
© Megan McDonald
3. To The Road by Wolfgang Golden
O, black ribbon highway
with your double yellow line
You define the core of civilized contract
"Stay on your side, I'll stay on mine."
I rush on at cataclysmic speeds
with death defying trust in strangers
In friction defiance, hurling headlong
putting the past behind
O, silent artery, I pulse upon you
Risking my very life
to get there and back again
Your siren song
like a never ending horizon
as if anything were possible
if I just keep going
So take me out
and bring me back
until I can go no more
Then grind up my ashes
into your asphalt
Let my blood
be mixed with roadkill
that I may repay
my endless miles
© Wolfgang Golden
4. There Are Many Roads! By Ingeborg Carsten-Miller
are worth -
this time -
"Ha," she said
and banged at
the closed door.
"You are not
you were -
I will find
_at_ 2002 Ingeborg Carsten-Miller
5. Caprice by Michael Brown
The first day I think it will be all right:
clean furniture, only the smell of carpet cleaner,
and disinfectant. The TV works,
no holes in the walls, no bugs in bed or bath,
a view of the parking lot. The bed is lumpy but firm.
On the second day I notice the cracked mirror,
rust in the sink and frayed carpet fibers,
low water pressure, and a tub that won't drain,
large lumps in the mattress,
blood stains on the box spring cover,
Jerry Springer in the next room,
someone gunning an engine in a Chevy Caprice,
the undertone of the interstate.
Check out time could be midnight,
but I'm up early on the third day because native smells
have returned, bugs counter-attacked,
the parking lot become a driveway
for a long line of four hundred horsepower cars,
high choir of idling semis,
the dialog in the next room louder than Leno's monologue.
Wry solace reprises the worst places I have ever stayed--
the Oakwood Motel outside Memphis
where the walls waffled when the trains went by;
the Holiday Inn in downtown Dayton, blood on the bed
smeared from a ragged black gunshot hole;
that unnamable place where a roach dropped on my face.
How many times was I the discovery
that put somebody back on the highway?
© Michael Brown
6. A Sign Reads, No Road Ahead by Orania Hamilton
Only but for the Grace of God
and good fortune, have I never been homeless...
a nightmare I pray never darkens my sleep.
On a street in LA, I stop to speak to a man,
who lies cold on a slab of concrete.
His clothing is dirty, shoes badly worn,
and his matted hair is silver-streaked.
A smell like rotten eggs wafts about him.
He extends a hand to me, I accept.
Although I am repelled by his unclenliness,
his hand is warm and friendly.
A sound of hollow anguish
echoes from his belly.
Aromas of food haunt like the ghosts of
sounds too distant to reach his ears.
Nearby, a child dressed in a warm coat,
tugs at his mother's skirt and asks,
"Why's that man like that?"
The mother glances at him, then quickly turns away.
A policeman passes; and angrily shouts, "Hey,
old man, you can't park your butt here."
He tells me he once had a wife and child;
lost them -- was unable to provide.
He longs for the woman whose arms no longer hold him.
Her eyes will never dream of him.
Love never touches him.
His name is barely spoken.
Can he endure this pain of uncertainty and loneliness;
no perception of direction; nothing to focus on?
Where does he go? To whom can he turn
from this house of despair?
With no road ahead for him,
absolute sleep --
seems a comfortable companion.
I awaken cold and shaken
to the stone gray dawn.
I rise with a prayer on my lips
and I am not hungry.
© 2002 Orania Hamilton
7. Milestone, Saskatchewan by Paul McLaughlin
It's after midnight and we've been driving hard and steady since
on our way from Edmonton to Iowa to visit friends
and our eyes are gritty and our butts are sore
and we are tired of the endless flatness of the bottom of Saskatchewan
as we head south-east from Regina on the Number 6 highway
We pull into Milestone, Saskatchewan just after 1:30 am
hoping for a place to camp--well, not camp, really,
just a place where we can sleep for a few hours
in the back of the van.
We follow the signs:
turn left off the highway at the darkened gas
drive straight ahead bada-bump, bada-bump over the tracks in the
shadow of the old-style elevators
turn right down the silent, one-storey main street
turn left down an empty side street where tricycles are safely
for the night
on the sidewalk
turn right then left again into a silent empty field with six-inch
beside the municipal pool.
With weary eyes, we read in the headlights:
$5 PER NIGHT
PAY AT POOL
We find a level spot, not a hard thing to do in southern Saskatchewan,
step out of the van to stretch our stiffened legs and backs
and are instantly attacked by a billion love-starved mosquitoes
committed to pumping every drop of blood
out of our ankles, arms, necks, faces and especially
my bald head. We jump back into the van, close all the windows, cover
(we forgot the repellant) and try to seal up every possible avenue of
to bare skin
before venturing out again to swat our way across the moonlit field
to the restrooms in the cinder-block building next to the pool, with
bug-filled fluorescent lights
flush toilets (thank God)
the tops of large metal garbage cans for counters
dank, slimy shower stalls
and no mirrors.
For mirrors, you'd have to pay, oh, six or seven dollars, at least.
But we're tired, it's cheap, and we don't complain.
As I back-dive into sleep, the last thing I see looking up through
the van window is the three-quarters moon riding high
in the clouds.
We are jolted awake at 6:03 by an early-morning freight train blowing
long, long, short, l-o-o-o-o-ng three times in less than a mile. The
extended long says, with a Dolby fade, "Get up, McLaughlins!
It's time to move o-o-o-o-n!"
The sky is clear; the sun is already two fingers above the horizon;
we are back on the highway eating breakfast in the van by 6:25.
The back of the campground sign says
We say thank you, too.
Thank you, Milestone Saskatchewan.
We enjoyed our stay.
© 1999 Paul McLaughlin
See more of Paul's poems at www.dogonit.ca/poetry.
8. To a Modern Troubadour by Ursula T. Gibson
You sing so sadly of love and pain
Who haven't known great joy or massive hurting.
You sing of aching love that's lost again
who haven't sweated through the hell of parting.
You sing and hope your songs are true
So hope stays bright and dreams are tall,
But, listen, lovers, I'll share with you
A truth you'll know, if you've loved at all:
You haven't ever loved enough
Until you've loved and known you've lost,
But learned from it and loved again
Without demands or weighing cost,
Loved again with all your heart
To make your dreams and honest hopes be real;
Laid aside the fear that you might part,
Admitted the joy you really feel.
'Til then, you haven't loved enough
To reach the vision of your dreams so tall;
'Til you've loved and lost and loved again,
You haven't truly loved at all.
© Ursula T. Gibson
9. Tour of Duty by Thomas Fortenberry
up late and drives
or was it women and children
lost in the echoed readings?
It doesn't matter.
It's all the same.
Same airport, same crowd,
came car, same road,
same lame smile over cold food.
Some days the miles overlap
your brain and heart crumples
to the side like road kill.
It isn't on purpose.
It just happens
to those who run cross country
out of breath, out of gas
because they're always giving
too much soul
on their tours of duty.
© 2002 Thomas Fortenberry
10. Van by Meredith Karen Laskow
The van screams "Suburban Soccer Mom"
a large practical box on wheels with nary
a hint of grace. The dark green
exterior intones well-manicured lawns
framing conservative middle-class enclaves.
It's hardly the vehicle for a mythic road trip.
The reader skipping this page
envisions a spit-polished Woody or an old
Volkswagen van festooned with
out-of-date stickers and tie-dye curtains, maybe
even an expensive sports car the size of a
small bathtub with the
convertible roof folded down so my
hair can fly in the breeze and get
caught in my sunglasses
---but not a minivan.
Minivans are scarcely the stuff of
songs or legends and probably don't
figure prominently in anyone's dreams
erotic or otherwise.
Still I'm hardly in the income
bracket to afford a new car for
every fantasy, so I drive
what I got.
It hauls my junk and comfortably sleeps two.
Although my van radiates all the excitement of tract housing,
the Green Mobile is not likely to break down halfway
between Podunk and Nowheresville, an event which
might produce great stories twenty years from now
but is a real pain in the butt when it happens.
Even a suburban soccer mom can
understand that, although I
doubt many of them
are reading this poem.
©2002 Meredith Karen Laskow
Grateful thanks to all who contributed your work.
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