Roading

I

Map slung open and

America at finger’s tip

our station-wagon stuffed

we head north from LA

doing the West Coast road

with Visions of Cody for devotions

we gun it to Guns & Roses past

dreadlocked palms and billboards

cleaving through mustard air

on an eight-lane bumper ride

‘Beam us outta here Foxy!’

cries Tami my road babe

as we pause between

Pontiac and Oldsmobile again

slowly round the rim of the city

of questionable angels we thread

through tarred tagliatelle

and listen to fast radio rap

Clinton-demise-OJ-innocent-Haiti-swoop

grinding the aircon over the Grapevine

with its gorges of honey into northern Cal

between Scylla Shell and Charybdis Texaco

flat out over flat lands un-

reeling across plains Frisco-bound

chasing highway steamships

beside an aqueduct artery

blue through the heart

we peal with dust devils

across the sun and weave

between Bay Bridge webbing

to golden Sanfran all aglow

II

Our wagon is dandled on

the legs of the Gate of Gold

where a toy tanker turns on the tide

101 north through Hicksville mining towns

and vineyards turning to redwood forests

whose gothic spires bleed thick resin incense as

we beetle along the Avenue of Giants watching

for deer and bear on the road to Eureka

that ’50s snake pit square and wired

but just beyond a sheer pine-strewn coast

with crevice coves and perfect left breaks where

hooded surfers are washed numb from the blue

glimpses of sand tongue and tooth rock

deliberately masticating the mercury sea ’til

finally Port Orford shades through tangerine

where a fries ’n burger beach dinner delights

before moonwalk between boats on stocks

rock cod with screaming bladdered mouths

shoot open-eyed terror in gasping boxes

and a fisherman hooks an eel by the eye

to show its crustacean-crushing jaw and

I grin wanly and wander back to the car

III

Through green corridors of fir to Coos Bay

where dunes slope from meshed marine forest

and caves flash with supine sea lions

while out at sea whales blow deep lungfuls

and breach beyond redwood carcasses

beached and bleached to whale-bone

inland past Oregon’s grim port land

with St Helen smoking her cone and

long grooves of traffic whining into

Washington where the world is wild with fire

and flames kiss the eerie compass points under

toadstool skies in which smoke columns

breed flagrantly with grazing cumulus

bowling from Olympia to Tacoma beside

Mount Rainier snow-brushed and

purpling in the somnambulant east

’til at the lees of light we feast

on Denny’s fast chicken wings

and spongy motel pillows

somewhere in Seattle’s

concrete flywheel

IV

Dave-the-dickhead-Letterman flicks us awake

and hungry we drill through breakfasting Seattle’s

clean-cut glass priapisms and pleasure wakes

with Curt Kobain grunging the dashboard

we streak north drugged by white lines

stacked up at the border where it seems

the rest of the world is maple bound

brief home-from-home in a Vancouver

shattered by pink firework fountains

then Route One east craving asphalt

thunder-struck and pelted we steal through

ash and fir bound for a town called Hope

in trapper and Indian country stretched

endless and tall and desperately devoid

where cloud fumes twist ’twixt needle tops

and forest faces soar higher and colder

we tail Canadian highway hogs

with wipers wishing metronomically

through high desert flung along the border

strung with deserted farmhouses echoing

sepia cameos from Wild West talkies

V

Suspicious squint-eyed border blue is

all gun and stomach and furred lip and

reluctantly plugs us back into his US of A

a place that’s all sky lakes and forest

red barns molasses earth and volcano vomit

we glide on down into grain lands

where silos loom like giants’ toilets

to Coeur d’ Alene pronounced Kordaleen

by tobacco-spitting KKK clansmen

snow-like hay soft and white at dusk

the undulent bedding of a Moscow embrace

then through a morning harvest of Idaho fields

where dinosaur thrashers scythe the horizon

we puncture the 45th parallel in a bovine valley

with cowboys in Stetsons tailgating and

pawing clumsily at our Californian plates

finally McCall licked by a ring of fire

and a white-water ride on the bronking Salmon

where smoke turns the sky fish-pink

and stains the surge to sick custard

now drifting head back in yellow canyons

spying the comb holes of gold miners or

gaping at the unleaded skydome puzzled above

now plummeting through hysterical froth

in fearful wide-mouthed consecration

then a hillbilly hick bar where a band

grooves to Hendrix and ZZ Top

and women wear cowboots ’n hats

with eyes that flirt

VI

South through Rocky loins to

the pale desert of eastern Oregon

scrub and stone and me and Tami

and the straight blue mountain road

sung across a big and brutal waste to a

one-horse petrol pump at Nevada’s lip

promising the dens of Winnemucka

where pensioners swarm at month’s end

to fritter their life’s worth into

the arms of many-armed bandits

we spin the wheel and dice on down

to the gods’ big win Yosemite Valley

where glacial granite soars and

spidermen thread their gossamer somewhere

up there

we hike bear-aware past enchanted falls and

boulders scarred magnificent to Emerald Pool

where we’re stung by deep snow-water

then High Chaparral Bonanza lands

and great Mono Lake shimmering wide

and calcified out of the horizon’s theology

we drill a gravel track through

molten mountains to Bodie

ghost town of gold mining days

where whispering shacks breathe tales

to chill the hearts of bad men

peering through misted windows

we see tables laid dry drinks poured

Bibles dusty in the pews and another

Monday’s paper lying unread

VII

Racing now

America unspools

across a valley floor

rolling with metallic ring

through Mark Twain terrain

homeward bound to the smell

of sexy salt-sea Californian flesh

and on the semen sands of Malibu shore

we sink a Big-Mac-’n-Coke and bless the taste

and this great god-given whore they call America.

Justin Fox, 1994

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