American Highway

All that land blasted flat with dynamite rode by,

cliffs gone, highway blank as white noise on my

back across the backseat, trees went upside down,

the branches bats and icicles, nooses. We moved fast across

other people’s roots: Detroit, Cleveland, the animals and silos,

highway lines sucked underneath the stomach of our car.


Each house we passed I thought I could have ended

up in easily. Reading Lolita, imagined my

foot on the gas, speed inside me, thin limbs

in a backseat pretzel tangle. I was 13. Shell station,

seeking out the gaze of a man pumping, daring him

to be middle-aged, sophisticated, drama for my drive.


But he pulled away without a sigh in my direction. Fire

of that summer, Steve B, on his way to Oberlin, had taken off

my shirt. Fresh memory: my best friend’s basement, musty

on a cool-ish night, and I could taste the rest of my life

in his mouth: Sam Adams beer, clove gum, the whole Midwest.

Rough couch against my newly naked back, this feeling


also had a taste – a breaking off in chips and melting

peanut brittle one I wanted, want. Steve B is now

Hasidic, now Lolita would be sixty, now I’m married

with a baby, once you see you — see? — you’re gone.


First published by New Orleans Review