I drove out on the 40 West at midnight
a year ago
toward some city looking for something.
Midnight made it more romantic, the city
being far off
gave me time to figure out what I was after
and far enough from my city
to have lots of time between the two.
Maybe I’d never get there or get back.
I did not stop playing music in the car loud,
shooting my headlights at and past the billboards
with the long, gassed-up, drugged-up trucks
rolling right along anonymously with me.
After a couple of tranquilizing hours we all drove into
the surprise of a fog bank in the hills and lost each other
swimming in the mist for miles, I came out alone,
crossed the line into Tennessee
and then the women began.
I didn’t see this coming.
The shoulders of the road were flesh-colored and glowing.
Swiss chocolate brown, red honey creamy, warm olive soft,
grey lemony poupon; the shoulders of women from all over.
I drove up the highway curve around Nashville to the north
the sun nowhere near ready to come up
all the lights of gas stations and Nashville turned off.
Only the foggy dream glow of these shoulders along both sides
of the highway, both ways. All the women I’d ever wanted,
my hands on the wheel, wide awake, no other cars around.
All asleep, these women, but I felt them feeling me
driving through, and the air got brighter and warmer.
The eyes, shoulders, breast and hips of these women
down to their peaceful toes, all at rest, rosy all the way up
the highway, maybe forever.
A rosy glow over the hills up ahead, then a vast valley of it
down the other side, when I got there.
Did I need all of these women?
Did I have the right? Who did I think I was?
I began to hydroplane, with or without the car.
I was still rolling on the highway, so maybe it was just me.
I began hearing things.
The answer was yes. I needed all of them.
I began hearing the voices of the women talking; calm, wild,
funny, open, quick, pondering, curious, loving, pissed-off,
imperfect, wrong, right, vulnerable, crying, philosophizing,
brave, unpredictable and full of possibilities. Voices purring,
shouting, whispering, laughing, comforting, singing, asking
about me, teaching me, pushing me, being daring, and daring
I began to drive faster.
Over the crest of the next hill I began seeing eyes everywhere.
Women’s eyes; incorrigible, crinkly, curious and comical,
diamond incisive, swirling and sensual, still and sensitive, full
of love and information and looking straight into my eyes.
I needed all of these eyes, too.
I rolled down the window, air coming in warm, I suppose,
as a bedtime story blanket and the breath of a goodnight kiss.
The eyes blinked, faded; the shades of skin, shoulders, breast
and legs dissolved back into the swirling rosy light, lighting up
the countryside everywhere, and these women didn’t need
to wake up to tell me that they knew I was driving through, or
that they knew I needed all of them.
After all my highway, I wanted all their love.
I checked the gas ( F ) and wondered one last time
if I needed all of these women along the highway to love me,
if I wasn’t being overly needy, a bit desperate, selfish,
if this was normal
and anyway, was it alright with them?
The rosy glow along the 40 West filled up as bright and pink
as millions of dozens of roses
and I knew that these women were saying yes.
And the second I took that in—that I wanted them
to love me, it was alright, and now I was alright—
the glow softened, glimmered one last time like
an incorrigible wink, and disappeared.
Billboards turned back on, gas stations and McDonald’s
lit up again.
I let off the gas, began finally, to slow down.