V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics






Twice you have driven nearly off the road. 
But you're making a mile a minute, less 
the headwind, less the time it takes to stop 
for fuel or food or stretch at a truckstop. 
It's ten, it's midnight—then it's three-thirty. 
Little towns constellate in the great black 
field, connected, clarified, and on line 
with the line your headlamps draw.  You're tracing 
a myth, you're drawing your longbow back, stick 
figure of phone poles and train-trestle posts 
racing unwinded beside you, one gold 
light far in a field as a firefly, fire—. 
When you come to a stop at the crossroads, 
the little town-square cannon aims above you 
through the trees.  And when you've gone through 
the last lights again, into the darkness, 
you see the steady gold of the field light 
waver, now, grown larger, winded, ablaze. 


It's a fire, feral in the wind, whipping 
high the tips of the elder trees, flames in 
flares shooting, the roaring heat a cloud.  It's 
a whole house gone up or barn or back building. 
You're awake, slowing, rolling your window. 
The one you have left has left your dreaming. 
But the crowd in attendance is past worrying— 
they wait, or warm themselves, something tribal 
in their tribulation the way they stand 
relaxed beside the trucks, choking smoke, or 
bend at the waist to drink from the buckets. 
Smell of old wood, highway speed, gasoline—. 
But then you have passed them.  The thin blue ink 
of your lamps crawls ahead to the blackness, 
nothing but night and sky and the time it 
takes to drive all night.  There is nothing else 
but stars and star-stories, which like your heart, 
are clearer the greater grows the darkness. 

© by David Baker 



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