Road Church began as a concept introduced by Erica Baker–and April became fascinated by the “vestibule” of the car and all it’s possibilities. This appeared as a mini-chapbook for River City Poetry, a Wichita-based online poetry journal, which April currently edits. The poem is now available here, in its entirety.
- Both images are the work of photographer Melody Sircoulomb, and appear here as they did in the chapbook
They finally sleep from the backseat,
my ears full from the pressure
of all that noise trapped
inside the vestibule of this car.
I can love them like this,
and soft breath.
We leave the radio off,
watch the road and traffic,
not really part of it,
heat trapped between his palm and mine.
We won’t stop,
not for anything,
not a snack or a sunset or a restroom,
this infinite moment of peace,
the road some kind of perfect.
I can talk to God here,
no pressure or ritual,
just a still second with road hum and cicadas.
I’ve cracked the window,
let out the music—99 Red Balloons—
and let in the smell of moist ground
after the faint sprinkling,
not even enough to switch on wiper blades.
The rhythm of the road vibrating
up through my thighs
in unpredictable hums
that blend together.
nothing but wind and railroad tracks,
turbines and pumpjacks.
We’re on our way to Taos,
two women with a playlist
and some fashion magazines.
We’re both going to be bored
to chewing on our nails,
screeching out song lyrics,
eating too much candy.
We’ll both be awed by trees
that look like monsters outside of Philmont.
We’ll both be so grateful to find
our hotel with clean sheets and a hot tub
somewhere on the property.
There was a time after
my stepbrother Ryan died,
his head pressed between the steel frame
of his truck door and the red clay dirt
of the culvert on old Hubbard road,
There was a time when every long row of cars
was the line of mourners that stretched
behind the family limousine, headlights on
in the bright afternoon sunshine,
July heat battered away
by dripping car air conditioners,
the silence trapped like a bubble
inside the limo
and nowhere to get a breath.
There was a time when I would count
other funeral processions
just to see if they had more cars than my brother,
because it just seemed to me at seventeen,
a life could only be measured
in the length of the line of cars.
Christmas Eve 2003
More than once
we’ve found ourselves
on some long and lonely road,
Like that time
our thumbs were out
on a dark Christmas Eve,
while I cried and shivered
because I couldn’t decide
if it would be better
to be picked up by a sociopath
or freeze to death by the side of HWY 70.
In my frustration at the death of the car,
I had broken off the brittle interior handle
of the ‘84 Camaro,
with it’s dashboard light effects
and speedometer bar.
“It’s a classic,” you said.
So I got used to sitting low to the ground,
tried not to over-gas it,
spin out the tires,
made the best of it because it was cheap
and we were broke.
Secretly it reminded me
of french-rolled jeans
and tee-shirt barrettes.
But right then,
as something choked
and died in that car,
as the power steering went out
and you managed to get us
over to the shoulder,
iced over and white,
as I realized that we couldn’t just sit
in the car and wait for someone to rescue us,
when I broke off that door handle,
a tiny part of my romantic love for you
and you became a little chipped.
Now and Then
How did we travel before the Garmin?
Before TomTom or GoogleMaps,
before our cellphone GPS,
when we had to stop for bad directions,
pee on the side of the road,
sleep in our car because we had no idea
there was a hotel just ten miles down the road.
We just got in our cars
and expected to get somewhere.
One time I ended up in Missouri
when I was trying to get to
Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
But I was in my ‘78 Delta 88,
feeling grown-up following my McNally atlas.
My girls will never know the joy of turning
the map the other way around,
of not being sure just when they’ll arrive,
of interpreting gutterals and pointings,
begging for the bathroom key
secured with a toilet-seat-lid.
I’ve driven the stretch of 1-35
between Wichita and Blackwell
hundreds of times.
I’ve taken the turn north of Perry
onto the Cimarron turnpike to Tulsa
just as many.
vague automaticity takes over.
I’m in a zen sort of boredom,
some Judith Krantz book-on-tape playing,
always some stretch of construction
I enter the car one person;
exit it another.