She hunched in the back seat, and fired
one Lucky off the one before.
She talked about her good friend Bill.
No one wrote like Bill anymore.
When the silence grew uncomfortable,
she'd count out my six rumpled ones,
and ask, noblesse oblige, "How ah
your literary lucubrations
progressing?" "Not good," I'd snarl. My poems
were going nowhere, like me -- raw,
twenty-eight, and having, she said,
a worm's eye view of life. And awe --
I had no sense of awe. But once
I lied, "Terrific! The Atlantic
accepted five." She smiled benignly,
composed and gaily fatalistic,
as I hammered to Winn-Dixie, revving
the slant six till it bucked and sputtered.
She smoothed her blue unwrinkled dress.
"Bill won the Nobel Prize," she purred.
If I laid rubber to the interstate,
and started speeding, how long, I wondered,
how long would she scream before she prayed?
Would she sing before I murdered her?
Would we make Memphis or New Orleans?
The world was gorgeous now, and bigger.
I reached for the gun I didn't own.
I chambered awe. I pulled the trigger.
from Locales: Poems from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, 2003.