Driving West at Midnight on CA-62
Time stopped and we were nineteen.
Your skirt didn’t cover your knee.
I thought for an eternal moment and
a jackrabbit thunked under a rear wheel.
There are many places I’ve never been,
like blind between your thighs for one,
California City for another…
or New York or On Top of Old Smokey,
but in love in your bed, most importantly.
How wandering does curve to beauty.
To dead silence on the roadside.
To that Jackson Browne record you loved
so much, years ago, before you tossed it
in the move back to Ohio. I loved
the warm blue dashboard light that night
on your bare knee. That’s all I can be.
Burning headlights into yellow lines.
Pressing closer to some idea of home.
The Good Book
This old man who has
worked the counter
at Carl’s Automotive
a graduate of Mojave High
on the year of America’s Bicentennial,
says, “We’re free of freedom at last.”
He loans me a
water-stained copy of
Small is Beautiful while we watch
extra Dodger innings from his sofa.
The beer is good.
And Carl gets that we are all just
The machine talks to each of us
every day, to reassure,
but of course we’re all replaceable.
whether you believe in Heaven or
Luck or plain old
Circumstances Beyond All Control.
There’s this book that wants me to read it.
I don’t know the title.
Can’t fathom the cover.
But it’ll remind me of an old record,
Sweetheart of the Rodeo,
and the really fine weed
Carl keeps around for Sundays.
Trees waving to lift themselves
in Santa Ana winds, still unable
to fly after all these millennia,
and tonight I stay inside, memory
a Capra film, cinema nostalgia,
twenty-seven oblique years
of my wife and son in montage,
with flashbacks to the grainy foreign
dreams of youth, a retrospective
diagram of my all too human choices
scrawled on a Denny’s coffee stained
paper napkin, the future ambling off
like a child through night storm’s
boom and torrent, where trees now
undulate their mute joy,
where soon the flash flooding,
where lightning branches strike my
sentimental hotel of solitude.
Michael Dwayne Smith lives near a Mojave Desert ghost town with his family and rescued animals. His most recent book is Roadside Epiphanies (Cholla Needles Press, 2017). Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, recipient of both the Hinderaker Award for poetry and Polonsky Prize for fiction, his work haunts many literary houses–such as The Cortland Review, New World Writing, Skidrow Penthouse, Word Riot, Heron Tree, Pirene’s Fountain, Gravel, San Pedro River Review, Monkeybicycle, burntdistrict–and has been widely anthologized. When not writing or teaching, MDS is editor of Mojave River Press & Review.