I watch the signs on the side
of the long straight highway
looking for animation
to break the boredom,
a bowing motion to the yield,
a dancing seven like tumbling
dice on the posted speed,
the sweeping hand highlighting
blips of the radar patrolled,
and cannot remember the last time
I took a wandering turn,
so exit the interstate and drive
a low road that has but one sign—
an ess curve with the caution
to slow down planted just before
the blacktop takes an arc
like a boomerang fully thrown
one way to come back the next.

What was linear and plain
hypnotizes into jeopardy,
the first slip of rubber on the rained road,
the loss of acquired friction,
gravity dispossessed
by insubstantial molecules
of oil and water that never like each other,
the Abel and Cain of asphalt,
so I slow, I slow, discover
the dirigibles of clouds
above the cliff on one side
and the pin-straight creek
galloping below.

This blacktop snake dictates
a dawdling drive,
where the intent of wandering
dissolves into the trance of wonder.
Marking time disappears
like white stripes and old tar.
How long have I been driving
on this road? The churn of gravel
breaks memory and trance
and I snap the wheel left,
straighten out.
When I make the highway
the engine swallows pavement
at a driven pace.

 

Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods and two-lane roads wide enough for one car. He works in mental health. He has work in The Watershed Review, The Nervous Breakdown, Spry, Atticus Review, and The Monarch Review. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2017 Cold Mountain Review narrative poetry prize.