The Pennsylvania Turn Pike, and I’m wired.
It’s the coffee. It’s the sugar. It’s the pills.
Growing up, it was go-carts on a tar-covered track.
I was eleven or twelve, too old to pretend,
but sound and motion make dreams and dreams
thrive on speed. It didn’t matter that my dad
was in the next lane, driving like crazy, his knees
around the steering wheel, laughing, embarrassing
us all but not really, not then, not when he’d been
gone—West Virginia, Reading, York, wherever
he drove our green Cutlass, the one without air,
to jobs he took to pay for kids he never got to see.
My brother took a turn and came up hard on his bumper.
My mom was in her black leather jacket, on the edge
of the track, screaming for all of us to slow down.
We were often not a family, so I like to remember
when we were. All that wind and the roar of tiny
engines. You could scream and not hear your own joy.
But I did it anyway, screamed that my dad was home,
that my mother was not at church, was not weeping
that my brother was naked again with his girlfriend,
that my brother was with us, safe behind the wheel.
I hit the oil slick and screamed, screamed when the man
raised the checkered flag to pull off, screamed when I
stayed on, when my dad stayed on, when my brother
stayed on, when my mother smiled at our collective
defiance, and how I skidded into the pit, and the man
said, “That’s it,” and my dad offered him extra money,
but he wanted us all gone, and how I want that now,
a man with a checkered flag, someone to wave me in,
someone to pay for the extra lap, someone to take me
home and love me and someone else to tell me about women,
though I’m fine out here, all alone but dreaming, still wrapped
up in motion. I’m steering gracefully while the other trucks
swerve into the nighttime, crossing yellow lines, and honking
their horns like alarm clocks, but I’m awake already.
It’s the sugar. It’s the coffee. It’s the drugs.
It’s my father, my mother, my brother in a dream.
I’m so hopped up on pills, I’m sharp as a tack,
sharp as a nail, the one that’s about to puncture
my right front tire, and blow it all to smithereens.
Special Note for Los Angeles fans of poetry:
Tongue and Groove presents a monthly offering of short fiction, personal essays, poetry, spoken word and music. Gerald Locklin, Dana Johnson, Yuvi Zalkow, Kerri Kvashay Boyle, & Wendy Rainey will be reading, plus musical guest Foster Timms on Sunday, July 29th, 2012 – 6 PM at The Hotel Café – 1623 ½ N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028. Admission is $6.