Driving through Tunnels

the blab of the pave,

the maul of the dog (W.W)


I rock as I ride down turnpikes south towards Delaware,

flowering cattails edge the swamp where forsythia

blooms all day and the golden mirror reflects

on a city of light. We pass Woolly Mammoth trails,

herds of Guernseys, feeding flocks of cattle egret

monkey jungles, alligator farms, corn growers'

flat lands which are heirs to Paumanook, Newark Bay

grist mill, flint rock of the Passaic

where sour willows sing and lake stones blister,

crowned aqueducts crumble, fractured

but whole, into a mountain of whitewalls, desiccated earth.

My truck is the animal that I fear.

Sluggishly it lurches into empty lots

and lugs about its burdens

of flesh and fruit. Its eyes are those that blaze

in midnight fires. Look, beyond that hill

another half-track's body is burning.


Too much coffee too early,

the don't fuck with me of loading docks

and my limbs bend in to the wheel as this deus ex machina

grinds and spends itself on diesel, wears the gears

down into the dirt. The divine theory of the road:

that never looking back, forgetting Kerouac,

speeding out the fourth dimension

or the next best thing, some Best Western

motel pool, blowing dough on sex

with illegal aliens. Even in this dismal rain,

I sniff Hawaiian orchid. But all we can see

is the Maxwell House Coffee can, dripping its neon

to the river. I drift into the rhythm of the going

forward, more of the same, the moving on.


We skid past a hag in fox pelt:

she's chewing on the corner of a cardboard lid.

Silicon in vats on forklifts,

cross-bone Xs, say indelicato,

a convoy of sulfur rigs mounting up

around us, my blind spot grows

till I can't see for all the thunder snow.

The compass reels directionless

until we pass a load of Spanish moss,

stop for a Molson off the road.


On St. Marks, a Labrador wears T-shirts

and his wheel-chaired master blows trombone,

a magnificent wailing into a land of dogwoods

that define a precipice of sky.

Thirteen-hour nights on the highways of the North,

medians for destiny, where penny-eating curs

spit cum into the toxic pools of Teaneck.

We drive to the cool tunnels,

dream the bridge which topples to the sea.


Hard by Hart's Island,

we unload the dead from a lorry--

stillborn Baby Richardson asleep in her plywood cask,

here to rot with all the other nameless poor,

requisitioned to this potter's field

off Riker's Island, where men come from

to throw coffins like sticks of firewood,

into the icy shadows that stretch

into sinewy mulch. The Calvary yards

of Queens, endless bleached deer bones,

Mt. Zion, River of Night, Far Rockaway,

Gowanus, epitaphs from Poe in a grove

where I felt a pair of eyes on mine,

some unearthly owl amidst the fevered dahlias,

crepusculum, determined to live through

winter and utter a word.


In dreams the bridge is black and lies along the surface of the Bay,

I-beamed limbs flail in a rage of tides,

a line of Panzer tanks and Chevys

upright on the upper roadbed, smoking

the burn and fall. Shock waves tremble whatever

rivets or shakes foundation-stone until the beast

shivers and shits to the sands below,

where horseshoe crabs lurk and burp in the kelp.


A cart full of razor clams is parked on pot-holed Greene Street

while its owner takes a leak:

ice-packed fry are murmuring...


Wiederkehr. Carolina

rice fields soaked down to the ferment.

Old Post Rd is strewn with armadillos.

Shorty sucks a lemon ice while Duchamp

tries to fix a flat. They talk of roads

which lead to accidental death, prescience

in a universe of trees, where Vega rises and Jupiter

descends-- lets blood-- parks the car away and sleeps.

Farmers-- mint-pickers-- on tractors stop to count the dandelion seed

which flutters up to Three Mile Island.

What I thought was snow one day was chicken down,

blanketing a pass off Lefferts Avenue.

Tarmac, buddies' lives, a sea of cable spools

uncoiling-- hot tarpaulin, holes in the street

down to the Scottish hornpipe lad

who dips his candles in our wax.

On to Pucillo's garbage barge, where damselflies

unbind themselves on tern-shat roofs of Quay Street,

Greenpoint, where on a ferry men watch other men eye beauty.


At night, I lie in gold lamé

and listen to the pregnant goddess as she works her belly

and glides her hands to my face.

She quiets my fear of tyrannical boyfriends,

chalk-white stairwells and red telephones.

Dreams of the Fat Man crushed

under a U-Haul in the Midtown Tunnel,

a rabid dog named Moon

of the Kearny oilfields,

wasted piers in Weehawken,

babies in back seats of taxicabs

as steel crunches onto steel.

At night-- in a plastic garbage bag

on East Fifth Street, a human heart

beats out its diastolic rhythms.


Shinbone Alley, a crack in a wall for seances--

sun's rising glimpsed by cats in Noho.

Stoppage or seepage of hours into tomorrow,

the rich stroll to work in rubber suits,

the skull of a rhinoceros lit from underneath the pavement.

A girl paints her toenails pink

she thinks, to match the dying light of Tuesday.

A fisherman in Vigo puts on socks

outside his shack and trawls across the sea.

Inside a Spanish Harlem public school,

twenty kids bow Schubert on borrowed violins

to the melancholy ruse of Trump's last city,

one lost island in a province of the dead,

dying, willing to try: they all dream tunnels

to the other side where forsythia blooms

in the rotaries. The procreant urge takes over.


Thunder cracks the sky,

blood bags drag along the Jersey shore,

where blanched bones dry.

The truck becomes an I itself

as we drive Mott Haven,

beached skiffs of the unreal river,

past the Creole green

of a casa dominicana, pig-laden

and oozing in cacao.


Through bogs of slime and ladybugs,

a man walks fourteen miles to turn his bottles into bread.

Mayflies choke down dinner: funerary rites

for a Trailways bus clog the BQE.

Driveshaft shifts, the body slips,

I wake up in the arms of a stranger.

Gristle trucks, black blood sausage,

asphaltum and oily waxen thread.

D. steps on a leg of lamb as we exit

Harlem River Drive, where the road winds

down to nothing but man-eating weeds,

skeletons of Oldsmobiles-- a cul-de-sac.

The life inside: a mirage of sound.


The sun is very far away today.

Cold franks and condoms in cool halls off Myrtle Avenue.

A forest of symbols in a maze of hurtling traffic--

it all speeds by. A Freuhauf semi-sixteen-wheeler

bunts its way between parked cars and smashes

a Subaru. Evel Knievel prepares a final jump,

over the sunken Verrazano. We shock into gear

by the giant clock face at Exchange Place,

grip our seats, go underground, reaching towards river,

the light at the end of the Holland Tunnel,

the roseate setting sun, as we head

by headlight out and away into the dark

of the night and the red tail lights up ahead.

© 1988