ORPHEUS ON AND OFF THE ROAD
A blinding locust storm in southern Illinois.
The kids who pick me up stole this Ford,
drinking and joyriding, revelling toward
the coast. And when they stop to let me pry
the black gook off the wipers, they screech away,
hysterical, my rucksack in their trunk.
I have surrendered to the road and pray
as I hitch, buffeted by each passing truck,
it will provide. And so it does. Two more rides,
Iowa cornfield to sleep, dancing stalks
and whispers - to be found you must be lost.
Falling stars throughout the night, roads
almost abandoned - a Mustang of six-packs
and four small-town girls, heading nowhere fast.
ORPHEUS HOPS A FREIGHT
Ninety miles - it takes from dawn to dusk,
but I am in no hurry. Dangling my feet
over the boxcar's edge, sprawled in grit
and grime, my father, that great solar disk,
hitches behind, coupled to the final car,
rolling along the sedge of Lake Michigan shore.
Like him I have all day, and several more.
Those poets I stood among yesterday are
all dead - Ginsburg, Rexroth, Duncan, and Oppen.
I shout their songs over the roar of this rolling line
and shred them - to cars at flashing gates, to children,
chasing death along the tracks and trestles.
Hear these words, I say, but prepare for mine!
braking toward the night in which Chicago nestles.
ORPHEUS RENAMES THE
The sputtering car breaks down. They always do,
though rarely on this red clay desert floor
where coyotes pace the mesas, ready to pursue
a midnight snack. I stay inside and lock the door.
My Navajo driver searches for a tool -
under the great flattened inky dome
of sky that rubs off on my fingertips, so cool
to touch that even all the shooting stars seem
like light, removed from burners, that drains
through a giant colander. He can't repair
the car, sure to be stripped by sunrise
so leads me past his family hut and sheep-pen, far
away, to a sacred hogan which he unchains,
to let me write new myths, to cancel old lies.
DONT LOOK BACK
But hitchhiking makes it hard not to. You must
show your sun and wind scoured face to catch
the approaching cautious glance, which makes you stretch
not forward, but back to a space and time, now lost.
You must drag along the road your rucksack crammed
with admonition, prophecy, and well-reasoned
reason for entering this whirling cloverleaf of wind
and fume and splat, to live like one of the damned -
forget what they tell you about the road.
Even if it takes you someplace new,
like some packed-sand beach on the western shore,
you'll spend the night deep in a ditch, the roar
of dune buggies overhead, you'll view
those desperate kids, truncheoned and gassed in a police
ORPHEUS IN THE SANGRE DOS
asked them to serve me with the corpse of their love.
And in the end I offered them only the corpse of my
The Man Who Died
The mountains burned each
night as if the blood
of Christ was burning off, and then transfused
by day. A couple took me in, Mary with her brood
of freckled kids, Joseph, ex-biker, half-tamed beast
who went about collecting honey like a story-bear
leaving gloppy cells of honeycomb
on neighbours thresholds. By midday I'd hear
Sufi chants from the mountaintop and plumb
the still flutter of hummingbirds in the copse.
Along the routeless road to the Master's dwelling,
up in a cleft of the mesa, like eagle, like condor,
I saw my friend, last seen in that east coast city: Sibling,
munching nuts and sucking plums. Sitting for hours
to hatch an egg and thus commence Apocalypse.
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