Because I could not feel settled, I drove:
state routes and low backroads; pavement
lineated and not.
It was a twitchy, skittish driving;
I turned down one road after another while clouds
hoarded themselves near and the silver
of heather green on rusted fences fidgeted by me—
smear of gray shingles and water-stained silos,
ads for milk, and long cattle pens.
I was afraid of dying, and I was afraid
of living in one place, of becoming sutured
to a place like a strand of stiff grass
worked into a sweater—afraid of resignation
and of my father's life: the highways
he worked on not far from there,
where the slick tarmac multiplied the sun into an angry heat
that rose as much from within as from outside of him.
I must have been seventeen when, sitting in the cab
of his dark green Toyota, he said he'd always regret
that he never knew what it was like to go to war,
like he could trade one shame for another
by saying it.
August to November I drove, watching
the mileage on the dash
hit whole numbers, then break again
while the heads of cattails huffed
like smoke in the side-view mirrors.
In the car time was easy to love:
this time the trees red like a soft mouth,
this time red like blood pushed out into water.
In the flatbed trucks and the hills of tires,
in the industry of fields, in the white flecks of gulls
that hubbed and spoked over high voltage wires
it became dusk
again and again.
Genevieve Payne holds an MFA from Syracuse University where she was the 2019 recipient of the Leonard Brown Prize in poetry. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Colorado Review, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and RHINO. (firstname.lastname@example.org)