at 7:20 this morning
behind but fine
and temperatures are moderating
not as hot. About 250 miles
in the first four hours and we’re now slowing down for Exit 49
as the road narrows to a single lane.
We are almost to Buffalo
a while still to go before we exit the state.
I am not driving but riding
laptop in its place and my fingers dance
in the way that I don’t think where they go.
I just see what each landing produces letter
by letter as this is a letter
not a poem not
in the sense that its words are careful
though care slips in from habit and rut
but just a set of words in a sequence of thinking
moving as the road moves
along and west
towards the eventual and unavoidable sunset.
Gravity trains us to see the sun above us
but I like to imagine in that realm without up
or down that I am looking down at the sun
its fires rising from those welllike depths
to warm us just as I enjoyed the sight of a welder
working an overpass this morning
the little balls of flame dropping to the ground
defying the usual order of fire to rise
and in rising
to descend into a smaller heap of darkness.
Nancy is driving and bored with it
because it is tedium and tedium is a cause for
reflection and reflection is a cause for dismay. Every
undone task rising
from the gut where worries rest and reach
for us. My mind works as it drives too
today a simple poem
that is the whole thing
considers the outlines
of what I’m working on
whatever project of poetry or person
how some change even slight might make it be
something I want it to be and fighting
fears regrets losses missteps the terror
the deepest fear
that nothing is everything
which holds two opposing
meanings close together.
We have passed the Bob Evans restaurant visible from the Thruway
we are in the Midwest which
doesn’t wait for Ohio. It waits
for the people to change.
The sky is a cloud in shades of bluish white
and the warmth slips into the car
Dried bug guts decorate the windshield but also
the side windows in dramatic
strokes and splatters. Futurist artworks
they connote speed and the measurement of speed
the distortion of speed when the eye can’t catch
each segment of a movement
blurring into swash.
We have entered the Seneca Nation.
A giant painted statue of a Plains Indian
full in headdress
welcomes us to buy something.
We cannot distinguish the peoples of the earth
from those few our minds can recognize so everything
is the same blurred
into someone else face of a lover
beside us face of a lover long left.
Reaching into a memory to rest there
I find a sequence of gaps and fluttering images
out of order all these essential events of a life
wiped out by memory that doesn’t do
what it doesn’t want to do through the long haul
of it all.
As you might guess, I write you from
and in a car as a way of remembering how you wrote
in a car back and forth between Normal and
where normal used to be huge pads of paper
beside you and writing as you drove as I can’t manage
or even want to do. You understand the road as
a placeless place that conduit
we move through to get someplace else the anonymity
of these narrowed landscapes the one here
hemmed in by trees
maples locusts pines a single weepless willow grey-green
the color of green the cloudsky is of blue yet it is still
a warm day that sifts through to us within
our own little world rolling forward
I have driven this way many times
forth and then back and sometimes occupied myself
with thoughts of counting. I have driven most of this country
on roads that turn every place into everyplace else
and sometimes I count the signs on the road. On one trip
to Florida I noticed
that North Carolina has
on each side of the road only a single post that must always
be in the ground every mile one sign every mile
to mark the mile so drivers can place themselves
if they notice it in time
in relative space and know the miles they’ve gone and maybe
how close they are to their exit. On the New York State
Thruway there are sixty posts
required on each side of the road
one mile marker on the right side
nine tenth-of-a-mile markers
thirty intervening markers
and on the left there are
twenty twentieth-of-a-mile markers
each in yellow. Those on the right are white
except for the green and larger mile markers
with white lettering. I once saw
just west of Big Nose and Little Nose
which together mark the only natural gap in the Appalachian Trail
through which the Mohawk runs beside which
ancient hunting trails ran and the Erie Canal flowed
and the Thruway runs two lanes east
and two lanes west
a car drift off the road the driver fallen asleep
before the corrugated rumble strip had been carved into
each side of the road and what woke him
and I could see it was an older man
was the car slamming through those fortieth-
their rat-a-tat raising his head
before he stopped in time and safe
unharmed but frightened.
South of Buffalo by quite a bit now
and we could catch a glimpse of Lake Ontario
a ways off and through the trees.
and the rest area has no restaurant.
late enough for lunch and moving
closer to too late. Sometimes we merge
lunch with dinner and eat at 3 or 4
and call it linner
an ancient word in my family one from
the late 1960s when we lived in Ontario
on the other side of one of these giant lakes
separating Canada from the US
and our backyard ended there on the shores
of Lake Erie over which once a hurricane grew in strength
and hit our house hard knocking down giant trees
next door before it eyed and then
hit us again. Within that eye I
retrieved the lid of a garbage can
nine years old and loving
the sense of carnage completely surrounding me
but nowhere near.
I just said
We should stop within half an hour
and our GPS asked me to
Speak a command
which means it heard me say
but how did it hear that from
what I had said?
We stopped for lunch a poor meal
Ohioan in substance if not stature though eaten
while we were still in Pennsylvania.
As we left I saw a bird in a b
a bird nesting in a b the smaller b
with this tiny roundish hole where the
bird stuffed its findings of grass into a nest
that spilled out of the b but
still held together
not in the bigger B the two-storey capital B
just two letters away with plenty of room
though maybe too much for comfort
for such a small bird too small for me
to make out what it was from such
I returned to driving which reminded me
that anyone else on the road is a potential obstacle.
Some cars move too slowly before me and retard my
speed and some pull up behind wondering why I am
not moving fast enough above the speed limit
to meet their needs. In different contexts at different
times, we are all both of these types.
When we crossed into Ohio
the state welcomed us in blue
into Ashtabula County. It is a name to repeat.
Ashtabula. Bugs Bunny would roll it
in his mouth like a carrot.
Every highway seems to cross into Ohio
the roads always under construction and we were
diverted into two streams
of traffic making space between them to repair
the roadway. As we left the true roadbed behind,
our fuel light came on and we waited out
the trip for gas stopping eventually at a BP
and giving them a little money they can use
to clean up their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
We are driving around Cleveland now
heading for Columbus about two hours
from here and I sang a song for part of this
diversion making up words in no language
recording the song and the traffic and how
the two merged pausing
to allow the voice of the GPS to guide us
and to enter the song because
we create in the moment and the moment
might be perfect or it might be pointless but that is the moment
we have. I can’t tell if the song is anything
to keep or something to discard
as if that were something I could determine.
The sky has opened up
the clouds have parted
to show pools
of luminescent blue above us
and sunlight limns the fatter clouds.
Fell asleep. Had to. Or took a nap.
An intentional descent into sleep.
Have had about a night’s sleep in the last
two nights which people tell me is insufficient
and even for me it was a little too little
so I took a nap just thirty minutes or so
or less and must’ve dreamed but it seemed
dreamless to me as a life is and the sleep
was hard straining my neck which was already
suffering a little since I pulled my back out a bit
this morning while preparing to leave. Now
sun in full force
and I’m too warm too.
Far enough south now that
the cloudy webs of webworms cover the far tips
of the branches of deciduous trees
stands of trees haunted with these insects
whose nests are sores about the green branches.
A turkey vulture soars high above
turning in a languid circle
and we cannot see its bald pink head
bald so it can enter a rotting carcass
and exit with the least effort and trouble.
There are more things we can’t see
from the road than we can.
by a watermelon-nosed cow
on the back gate of a truck.
This surrealistic life.
The road is straight and flat
Ohio is straight and flat
we used to dread the trip through Ohio
its landscape suited for agriculture
but not created for the pleasure
of the eye. At least
the latrines are gone from the rest areas.
And everything is green even more lush
than in New York State
in the summertime.
I enjoy both the uniformity of the fields
the crops growing in their stiff and regular pattern
and the gaps the holes the imperfections
the openings where the plants didn’t grow
dark vistas into limited failure fragments of
evidence that life doesn’t go in order even
when regimented into it shards of disorder
glittering against the oppressive green.
The pattern is necessary you see
for the deviation from order
to have any purpose for the eye
or the pale and turgid mind behind it.
No ideas but in ideas
No things but in things
No words but in words
and another poem is born within a larger one.
Less than five miles from Columbus
and three lanes in either direction
ours being about southwest I assume
and traffic is becoming heavy because
it is 5:15 pm (honestly) on a work day
and I’m still awake and people must be
moving home from work and cars are always
traveling through Ohio to someplace else
or even to other parts of Ohio. The deep shade
of a tractor-trailer cools me for a few seconds.
It is a partial relief. The sun far below us
still cannot be stopped.
I am relieved to learn that
Supports Our Troops
Whenever We Go…
To The Enemy
Trucks say the darndest things
though I do like this slightly strange use of the word
Just hit the Columbus corporate limits
and a sign on an overpass proclaims something is
since both Nancy and I are Geminis
we are relieved to know
there is a place for us.
From the time we left Mansfield Ohio
until now I’ve been uploading a video
and it is now available for viewing. In it
the rubbery drinking nib of Nancy’s water bottle
speaks to her in my voice explaining
that he will explain to her some of the mysteries
of life but never quite covering the mysteries
because so much of everything is preamble.
We take Exit 112
towards Hudson Street
then turning right onto East Hudson
left onto Summit and I see a tall
sheaf of what looks like pampas grass
growing beside a stolid red brick building.
Graffiti adorns buildings and boxes
on light poles all of it simple tags
and almost devoid of style
messy scribbles of sprayed paint
maybe the most plaintive
calls sent out only to prove an existence.
Another right and then we’ll turn
onto the street for our hotel.
We are at the corner where
the university begins and we now see
we’re in a college town
or section of town. The world
is big and urban and beautiful
full of unreasonable possibility.
Ending at the Roger D. Blackwell Inn
on the campus of Ohio State University
in Columbus Ohio at 5:37 pm
on the same day we began.