01 June 2006

Carl Phillips

[from Carl Phillips's Cortège]

A Touring Man Loses His Way

With all the wreckage
of vacation, of an assembled life
in tow, we drive
into this town on
narrowing roads whose names
run verticals up whited stone markers,
suddenly there,
haunting the intersections.

To the right,
in the rush of open vents,
the map crackles idly,
draped and puckering over
her thighs, wide-slung in sleep;
the rich blue interstate prowls
over one knee, and licks
the wobbly stick shift.

Above the dust horizon
of dash, and stranded travel-cups,
the sea comes rearing;
then we descend, and the waves

seem to rise from
the quaver of tar and heat
and broken fluorescence.
I say:
“this road,
the road, a
to no one specifically.
Her head wanders from
the headrest, strays
toward the ground sheen of safety glass.

The unamazing thought occurs just
under the wheel-hum
        I have no idea what I am doing
        I have no idea where I am going.
With increasingly waning trust
I grip the wheel—this seems
primary, this feels
correct—and shoulder
by instinct into the hurtling road

that bends, unbends,
buckles through this land: a coast,
shingles flashing, weathering.

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