Driving by kudzu, under oblong leaves
of live oaks as their roots knuckle up,
past the trawlers, who dredge pretty pink shrimp
from the belly of the coral-lipped sea,
war’s on, whether we say yes to it or no. “Let’s go
for a ride, Earl, hey,” sings a girl
on her softball road trip: turn the radio up!
And doesn’t she feel it’d be good to kill
that bad Earl if he hurt her friend, to fly
on a red-eye home to hold her hand?
And doesn’t she feel it’s good to vote red
like her daddy when he tells her it’s good
to be good like daddy? Years later, fire licks
the oil fields on TV, “Push on,” the President says,
and everybody on this bus claps, turn the radio up.
But when the song comes on, it hurts her
and us—hey, hey, hey—how this nation lays welts
there and here, wherever a big man touches,
raising the flaming circle of his face
above us like an idol. I was ashamed
for loving it: the swagger, the sugar, the diesel
in my big tank on the big, open, take-what-you-want road.
I loved it as much as I hated
who I became in it, taking or being taken. The last time I lied
under a man and didn’t want it was in the back
of a pick-up truck, and it was in the South.
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