Driving West in 1970
BY robert bly
My dear children, do you remember the morning
When we climbed into the old Plymouth
And drove west straight toward the Pacific?
We were all the people there were.
We followed Dylan's songs all the way west.
It was Seventy; the war was over, almost;
And we were driving to the sea.
We had closed the farm, tucked in
The flap, and were eating the honey
Of distance and the word "there."
Oh whee, we're gonna fly
Down into the easy chair. We sang that
Over and over. That's what the early
Seventies were like. We weren't afraid.
And a hole had opened in the world.
We laughed at Las Vegas.
There was enough gaiety
For all of us, and ahead of us was
The ocean. Tomorrow's
The day my bride's gonna come.
And the war was over, almost.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: You Ain't Goin' Nowhere by Bob Dylan
Once, Driving West of Billings, Montana
BY susan mitchell
I ran into the afterlife.
No fluffy white clouds. Not even stars. Only sky
dark as the inside of a movie theater
at three in the afternoon and getting bigger all the time,
expanding at terrific speed
over the car which was disappearing,
flattening out empty
as the fields on either side.
It was impossible to think
under that rain louder than engines.
I turned off the radio to listen, let my head
fill up until every bone
Twice, trees of lightning
broke out of the asphalt. I could smell
the highway burning. Long after, saw blue smoke twirling
behind the eyeballs, lariats
doing fancy rope tricks, jerking silver
dollars out of the air, along with billiard cues, ninepins.
I was starting to feel I could drive forever
when suddenly one of those trees was right in front of me.
Of course, I hit it—
branches shooting stars down the windshield,
poor car shaking like a dazed cow.
I thought this time for sure I was dead
so whatever was on the other side had to be eternity.
Saw sky enormous as nowhere. Kept on driving.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Violin Concerto by John Williams
Slow Dancing on the Highway: the Trip North
BY elizabeth hobbs
You follow close behind me,
for a thousand miles responsive to my movements.
I signal, you signal back. We will meet at the next exit.
You blow kisses, which I return.
You mouth "I love you," a message for my rearview mirror.
We do a slow tango as we change lanes in tandem,
gracefully, as though music were guiding us.
It is tighter than bodies locked in heat,
this caring, this ardent watching.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Verano Porteno by Astor Piazzolla
Driving in Oklahoma
BY carter revard
On humming rubber along this white concrete,
lighthearted between the gravities
of source and destination like a man
halfway to the moon
in this bubble of tuneless whistling
at seventy miles an hour from the windvents,
over prairie swells rising
and falling, over the quick offramp
that drops to its underpass and the truck
thundering beneath as I cross
with the country music twanging out my windows,
I'm grooving down this highway feeling
technology is freedom's other name when
comes sailing across my windshield
with breast shining yellow
and five notes pierce
the windroar like a flash
of nectar on mind,
gone as the country music swells up and drops
me wheeling down
my notch of cement-bottomed sky
between home and away
to move again through country that a bird
has defined wholly with song,
and maybe next time see how
he flies so easy, when he sings.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Mama Knows the Highway, sung by Hal Ketchum
BY mark vinz
This could be the town you’re from,
marked only by what it’s near.
The gas station man speaks of weather
and the high school football team
just as you knew he would—
kind to strangers, happy to live here.
Tell yourself it doesn’t matter now,
you’re only driving through.
Past the sagging, empty porches
locked up tight to travelers’ stares,
toward the great dark of the fields,
your headlights startle a flock of
old love letters—still undelivered,
enroute for years.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Piano Quintet by Edward Elgar