Following August across New Mexico borders
into rain so fast grinding glass and asphalt,
I lose the white markings where the lanes go,
numbers on road signs, arrows. I can’t see
the other cars or hear them. I’m negotiating
windshield wipers, still learning to shift;
weaving stupidly through Gallup, missing
interchanges, overpasses, merging or gone.
On impulse I’d stop anywhere, this itinerary
for leaving: inches-thick sheets of water
sweep sideways, edges running together like
paint, until the car merely drifts in some
general direction: There. East. Forward.
My knuckles pale, a dull itch where
my arm has gone numb. He says, Try to stay
on the road. Watch where the pavement ends.
Later, the terrain emerges
vertical and edged. Cliff sides wall in
broken shades of rust and flushed
magenta, ribboned stark for miles. He says,
Here. Look on your left. I’ll hold the wheel.
Instead I turn to watch his face: the low
sunk slope of cheekbone; the vein-travelled
throat; eyes steady grey on the road.
A loose fist has the steering wheel
near the bottom, keeps it in place,
his shoulder leaning in a little, toward me.
Left, he says. Look to your left.
The mistake is in learning the clutch on
his car, packed with my belongings, everything
I am taking with me, and him.
The car runs difficult under the weight,
slow climbing even the slighter grades,
the two-lane highway near Kansas.
Through dust-blown towns where it turns
Main Street or Central, I avoid stop signs and
lights; I have trouble stopping then
gearing into first, never know
how much to give, or where it catches.
The next time I’m in third with too much
distance on a late yellow light, I run it,
his voice sharp against the windshield where
I see it turn red. Someone honks,
but I can’t stop here and stall again,
not now, I have to get on with it, this
driving myself away from where he lives.
It shouldn’t be that difficult or slow.
Past the town’s end, I’m speeding now, too,
tears dripping like rock into my lap, and
ignoring for the next mile his voice,
weary, yielding: Pull over. I’ll drive.