Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1193) Cherrylog Road
Off Highway 106 At Cherrylog Road I entered The '34 Ford without wheels, Smothered in kudzu, With a seat pulled out to run Corn whiskey down from the hills, And then from the other side Crept into an Essex With a rumble seat of red leather And then out again, aboard A blue Chevrolet, releasing The rust from its other color, Reared up on three building blocks. None had the same body heat; I changed with them inward, toward The weedy heart of the junkyard, For I knew that Doris Holbrook Would escape from her father at noon And would come from the farm To seek parts owned by the sun Among the abandoned chassis, Sitting in each in turn As I did, leaning forward As in a wild stock-car race In the parking lot of the dead. Time after time, I climbed in And outthe other side, like An envoy or movie star Met at the station by crickets. A radiator cap raised its head, Become a real toad or a kingsnake As I neared the hub of the yard, Passing through many states, Many lives, to reach Some grandmother's long Pierce-Arrow Sending platters of blindness forth From its nickel hubcaps And spilling its tender upholstery On sleepy roaches, The glass panel in between Lady and colored driver Not all the way broken out, The back-seat phone Still on its hook. I got in as though to exclaim, "Let us go to the orphan asylum, John; I have some old toys For children who say their prayers." I popped with sweat as I thought I heard Doris Holbrook scrape Like a mouse in the southern-state sun That was eating the paint in blisters >>From a hundred car tops and hoods. She was tapping like code, Loosening the screws, Carrying off headlights, Sparkplugs, bumpers, Cracked mirrors and gear-knobs, Getting ready, already, To go back with something to show Other than her lips' new trembling I would hold to me soon, soon Where I sat in the ripped back seat Talking over the interphone, Praying for Doris Holbrook To come from her father's farm And to get back there With no trace of me on her face To be seen by her red-haired father Who would change, in the squalling barn, Her back's pale skin with a strop, Then lay for me In a bootlegger's roasting car With a sting-triggered 12-guage shotgun To blast the breath from the air. Not cut by the jagged windshields, Through the acres of wrecks she came With a wrench in her hand, Through dust where the blacksnake dies Of boredom, and the beetle knows The compost has no more life. Someone's outside would have seen The oldest car's door inexplicably Close from within: I held her and held her and held her, Convoyed at terrific speed By the stalled, dreaming traffic around us, So the blacksnake, stiff With inaction, curved back Into life, and hunted the mouse With deadly overexcitement, The beetles reclaimed their field As we clung, glued together With the hooks of the seat springs Working through to catch us red-handed Amidst the gray breathless batting That burst from the seat at our backs. We left by separate doors Into the changed, other bodies Of cars, she down Cherrylog Road And I to my motorcycle Parked like the soul of the junkyard Restored, a bicycle fleshed With power, and tore off Up Highway 106, continually Drunk on the wind in my mouth, Wringing the handlebar for speed, Wild to be wreckage forever.
I was talking to Thomas Lux, a poet in residence at Tech, about James Dickey the other day, when he mentioned this poem to me. He called it memorable and solidly rooted in the South. But what he didn't say was how powerful and vivid this poem was, I had to find that out for myself. And what I haven't been able to get out of my head, ever since I read this poem, are the lines at the closing: "Drunk on the wind in my mouth, Wringing the handlebar for speed, Wild to be wreckage forever." These alone are worth reading this poem, the power those lines evoke/ invoke! I have felt these emotions many times, when I wrung "the handlebar for speed, wild to be wreckage forever"! Also since a recent theme has been poetry and movies, James Dickey apart from being a powerful poet, wrote the novel Deliverance. It was on this book, the smash movie Deliverance was based. Infact he figures in the movie as the sheriff towards the closing, which I think is pretty unusual, instead of a poem in a movie, it's a poet in a movie. The movie is worth watching too, if only to see that jam/duel of a guitar and a banjo. And since I have hiked along the river(Chattooga River in Georgia) on which it is set, I could experience first hand the wildness Dickey managed to capture in his work. So be sure to watch this movie too! Sashi Links: Deliverance: http://www.destgulch.com/movies/deliver/ Listen to Sheep Child, another powerful poem here: http://www.theatlantic.com/unbound/poetry/dickey/jdindex.htm A very extensive special at NYT. Be sure to read Barnstorming for Poetry. http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/08/30/specials/dickey.html Finally, a sometimes painful memoir, one of the best I think that can be ever written by a son about his father, that first lead me to James Dickey, Summer of Deliverance: http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/08/30/reviews/980830.30kirbyt.html - Sashi