He drove himself down every road.
In a plymouth with tires balder than his head,
slicker than onions growing wild in the ditch.
Does he see the feral cats race his shadow
as it whips through the rabbit grass?
Can he hear the cicadas whirr in the Digger pines?
He claimed he saw a coyote chasing its tail
through fields white with bolls, never admitting
that coyotes ain't common around cotton;
then he would laugh like chuckles were dollars.
His opinions meant everything; his weight pulled
carts filled with sand down at the cement yard
until his yield grew so slack the big boss noticed;
let his time go with a watch and a gold smile-
he had grinned, said it was just another bone
for the archeology folks up state way to dig up
one fine afternoon, to study over like he studied roads-
everyday, a different road. He always said
he heard his oasis calling, heard the slip of streams,
smelled suckle dripping from the vine somewhere
out past the end of the Butternut groves.
Take me back, he'd say-
lead me where the roads run to earth;
leave me drink from the slipping streams,
let me draw communion from its song;
bring me grapes that hang from strapped stakes,
feed me honeysuckle sweet as time-
wash away years like the river smooths stone.
Those blacktops earned his admiration,
hugged his glass tires, pushed his days forward.
He said his satisfaction was always just ahead-
lurking in the sawgrass, swimming with water striders
across the flat planes of Gardner's pond,
caught on a high soar with the morning doves
throwing shadows like bullets on the two-lane;
their flight cutting delicate arcs through thoughts.
He paid attention to clouds, drew their chaos
in the dust on his hood. He chewed sour-thorne
as he drove, said its tang called memories
of a girl he once kissed beneath a fingernail moon.
He collected thistle from bullrushes,
strew it out his windows for the architect birds
building homes in the Silver Birch stands.
He carried a trowel in his trunk for small burials.
He couldn't remember his children's names.
He died on a Saturday.
Parked his Plymouth on a slow rise
out where split-rails lean against the sky.
He opened his arms to a fading sun,
lent his voice to a slipping stream-
Take me! Lead me where the road runs to earth!
They found an old man on Monday, the papers said;
pillowed on piles of thistle miles from the rush thickets,
his eyes full of dew, his pockets full of grapes.