Drive - Poem by Deborah Cameron
When the papers are final, I pack the car
with our suitcases, a few boxes, my wedding dishes,
and I go home again. My three-year-old daughter
cries and throws her doll out of the window
for the last time somewhere near Topeka. I drive
all night with the map upside down, a migratory bird
out of season, with only the homing instinct left intact.
My mother coos over the grandchild she has seen
just once, calls me her boomerang kid and tries to smile,
makes bright smalltalk, the good hostess
of a party she does not really want to give,
until my angel falls asleep on the sofa, and I plead
exhaustion. In my old room the bed is pushed
against one wall between boxes of toys.
The sewing machine, dusty with waiting
For someone to finish that yellow prom dress,
is piled with laundry and mending. I pull back
the fresh, hasty sheets and settle my sleeping child
in the bed where once I dreamed restlessly
of her father and burned to be gone.
I wonder if ghosts of those dreams remain still
in this place, in the corners, like cobwebs,
to trouble me in a half-light. I curl against
our child, trying to find the right shape again
that will make her part of me, unseverable,
until she chafes at the sweaty closeness and pulls
away. In the morning, before she wakes,
I slip away, too. Avoiding my father who stands
in his underwear, scratching and watching the coffee brew,
I swipe the keys to the Mustang and drive.
Through the quiet hour, through my own history,
this Disney set, too real to be. And I drive
past the old high school, past my best friend’s house
that stands weedy and small, past the cloudy pool
at the Y, still rocking with the rhythm of yesterday’s
play. Past the grocery and the Texaco
Where I bought a gallon of gas on Fridays
with bottle deposits saved all week.
Past the farms, wild seeds gone to flower, painted
cattle in lavender fields, a burned out shell of a barn.
That’s me in the rearview mirror. In front of the new
Wal-Mart, someone waves me down. A boy I knew
In school. Danny something, or Barry.
He still has outlaw eyes and a cowboy smile, says he always
had a crush on me. There is a place we know beyond
the last blacktop road in town where the grain
still whispers in an endless field of silver and green.
I cut the engine, and it begins to tick in the cool air,
And far off, a tractor hums. On cue, the field comes alive
with clicks and taps, the dry talk of insects.
Now the buttons of my dress are quick and numbered,
and falling back upon the ripe ground
I think, how easy this is,
how well he fits.
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