April 18, 2005

Five State Drive

“The windshield wipers wipe, homesickness one way, wanderlust the
other, back and forth.”
-Galway Kinnell, “Sheffield Ghazal 4: Driving West”
1. Illinois

Oil derricks spring up in the cornfields,
the prairie begins to rise and fall;

Illinois is trying hard
to shed the winter gray.

Countless times I’ve crossed the state:
Lake Michigan to the Mississippi,

Chicago to Champaign.
Today we go farther south

than ever before.
In Metropolis, close to where the Ohio

and the Mississippi meet, they’ve built
a bronze Superman statue

to stand for Truth, Justice, the American Way
and the tourist dollar.

2. Kentucky

The sun is gone
and morning will find us at the gulf.

We cut across the corner of Kentucky
in the dark. Mike and Rob

watch Bill and Ted in back
and Ryan has taken the wheel.

I sit with my feet on the dash
Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude by flashlight.

3. Tennessee

Outside Nashville, I search the dial
for a basketball game. Intermingled

with static, booming preacher’s voice and country twang
we can barely pick up West Virginia vs. Wake Forest

drifting through the air from Cleveland.
Jon and Jennie call to say

they missed the exit; they’ll meet us in Alabama.
While everyone gets out to take pictures

of the Parthenon replica we searched the city for,
I lean forward in my seat

listening through the static
to the double overtime finish.

4. Alabama

After a rest stop near Huntsville
we hit a wall of fog

that stays with us through the night.
I’m at the wheel and can’t see

twenty feet in front of my face.
I try to follow the cars ahead

but lose their taillights in the fog, that lifts
in a pale blue, watercolor dawn.

5. Florida

We drove five states
to spend five days

in a seaside motel
one hundred yards off the Gulf of Mexico.

The morning we arrive
we see dolphins swimming just offshore.

While we lay in the sand
to make up for our sleepless night

children play nearby and our skin
get this spring’s first touch of sun.

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