I’ve lived on dirt roads that bent and ended
at a gate of pines,
the dust skipped up didn’t make my mother
look like a dream. I’ve lived
on roads that dragged through America,
I’ve paced only them to the next town.
The road we kissed on is gone,
rich folks buying up all the city in which we make do.
I miss when Sonny could do a wheelie
all the way down Person Street
and no one would call the police
because he was a part of the neighborhood like the honeysuckle
bush between two yards, and he was beautiful,
not like a horse standing alone in a yellow field,
but like a man is beautiful.
Most of the little towns have a road nicknamed Devil’s Turn,
where someone’s brother died on a Saturday night
while Nina sang Tell Me More and More and Then Some
on the Caddy’s radio,
the moon the color of the oldest cardinal.
Every road isn’t a way out, some circle
back like wolves, you can’t get lost on them
and they won’t lose you, others wait
for you to run out of gas then come alive
with what your mother said would take you.
Every road promises something like a father does,
but when you arrive the town is empty, and you wait
like a child questioning everything, the road itself
laughing like a drunk man falling into a roadside ditch.
The road I’m walking now is howling and full of moon,
hopefully it’ll lead to myself,
hopefully they’ll take me home.
By Tyree Daye, teaching assistant professor of creative writing at UNC-Chapel Hill. “By Land” is from Cardinal, Daye’s latest collection.
Published in the Fall 2020 issue | Finale
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