Michael Philips

Route 66 For President - Poem by Michael Philips

Roll down your window and smile.
Hold it.
Now let me get one with the background of vintage automobiles,
tinted postcards, motels, and Route 66 trying to slake my
thirst not for freedom but for the symbols of freedom,
like this eagle here in the roadside souvenir shop,
or this flag or this cowboy figurine or this open road.

If it could, Route 66 would continue beyond L.A.
and reach out into the Pacific, guiding us into an adventure
of chrome and digital flying fish and mermaids holding welcome
signs at the arrival gate and telepathically cheering us onwards
through endless smorgasbords with bean salad and cherry tomatoes and opportunity.

And Route 66 would continue East too,
right up to the doormat of the Statue of Liberty,
where we will flare our nostrils and feel monumentally proud
about our image of generosity.
Give us all those poor and huddled masses indeed.
We can feel proud about the intention anyway.
And we can feel proud about our vacation on Route 66,
and our willingness to accept our freedom in the form of
finite road trips on glorious glorious blacktop.

I hold on to as many faded Route 66 e-bay collectibles as I can,
Each has its own theme song and they all sound about the same
and the voices sing about times when there were more choices,
and words like “consolidation” and “homogeneity” were simply big words,
not ravenous viruses on the culture, tract homes filling in the canyon,
tract homes in the refrigerator, tract homes on the radio
transmitting their call letters to the huddled masses pouring across the border
like chaotic productions of The Grapes of Wrath, coming to take our scummy jobs,
threaten our Way Of Life, and hand us foreign expressions and explosions.

So I’m voting for Route 66 for president.
I’m voting for honesty and simplicity and rodeos and prayer meetings
and Corvettes and friendly gas station attendants wearing white hats
who will fill ‘er up because I want to be filled up, I need to be filled up
and I always want a clean windshield and clean sheets and a clean bill
of health and I want to be A-okay and be given the thumbs-up sign with
a wink and a grin.

And I want Judy Garland as Dorothy to sing me to sleep each night
and I want to hear all the good news about good people doing wonderful
and ingenious things and I only want perfect landings and firm handshakes.
I know there are killers and black tumors skulking out there on moonless nights
but I only want to see them on TV, which I can turn off any time I want
with my trusty remote control, which I can also use
to turn on the stereo to bring me my beloved Route 66 in the
All-American key of C major, the very best key of all.

I want Route 66 to tuck me in each night and gently wake me each morning,
and serve me a cup of hot coffee in bed with eggs and toast
and reassure me that it doesn’t have to be so difficult all the time,
Please Route 66, tell me that heartache is just temporary,
and please Route 66, vacuum my rugs, take out my garbage,
sweep away any irony that dares to collect on the welcome mat
outside the screen door with the reliably squeaky spring and the hook
that jangles against the wooden frame when the door slams shut.
I want all the irony swept under the prayer rug,
It should pass me by completely like the Angel of Death,
especially the American form of irony encapsulated in the fact
that a positive, swinging, toe-tapping tune like Route 66 follows a 3-chord
12-bar progression invented by dark-skinned, second-class citizens
singing about trouble.

Route 66 will be my magic coat and decoder ring
and will deliver me from evil and will warn me about traffic up ahead.
Route 66 will be my lord and my savior. I will pray to Route 66
for redemption and a fresh start and an easy ending,
and my prayers will be answered by the doorbell,
and there will be my mother alive once again with no
signs of dementia, beckoning me out to the curb to the waiting automobile
with a full tank of supreme, and she will drive me past my old school
out past the city limits through wheat fields and vast lakes
and the Grand Canyon and I will wave to farmers and train engineers
and Santa Claus and the sandman and I will rise out of the car and enter
an old black and white cartoon with singing daisies
and I will rest on pillows of clouds safe and secure on pillows of clouds
safe and secure with my mom, her voice like Judy Garland’s,
singing along to a song on the car radio
that sounds like the blues.

Comments about Route 66 For President by Michael Philips

  • (1/24/2006 7:55:00 AM)

    Yes, I would second that motion. Very captivating and flowing poem. (Report) Reply

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  • (1/11/2006 10:57:00 AM)

    the second section with the lines about route 66 continuing into the pacific were very telling. would you say most americans perceive american territory as ending on the chinese shoreline? (Report) Reply

  • (12/19/2005 4:23:00 PM)

    Michael, ordinarily I shy away from lengthy, narrative poems. However, Rout 66 for President, is an exceptional piece of writing. Thank you, Jerry (Report) Reply

  • (8/1/2005 11:20:00 AM)

    Michael, I like this best of all your poems. You have captured the glory of the old route 66 as well as the dark side. I loved your images, especially 'honest and simplicity and rodeos and prayer meetings.' That about nails it. I loved the illusion of dear old Judy Garland and the smorgasbord of bean salads and cherry tomatoes and opportunity. I could go on and on...but even Route 66 came to an end. This is wonderful.

    (Report) Reply

  • (8/1/2005 5:09:00 AM)

    Absolutely glorious, Michael! I didn't want it to end, it had me rolling along on the crest of a wave... Walt, Lawrence, Allen, Jack, vote this into the anthologies! (Report) Reply

  • (7/31/2005 3:43:00 PM)

    too long for me. i like your clever, conversational pieces better. thisd kinda reminds me of lamont palmer, just not as metaphorical. prefer your earlier stuff; just me. (Report) Reply

  • (7/31/2005 3:24:00 PM)

    Hey, I get the first comment! Michael, I LOVED reading this poem! It's a long one, I often dread long poems, but getting into this one made it breeze along-dare I say it-like a trip on-well, never mind: -) . I encountered so many details that I loved, prayers being answered by doorbells is the first one that comes to mind, and the personifications of 'Route 66' (that made me think of Trout Fishing in America) . In St. Louis where I grew up there's still the Casa-something motel, preserved along what used to be 66, if Route 66 had been running for President last November I probably would've voted for it! The one thing that wasn't as strong as I'd hoped-I was ready to weep like a baby-was the last line. Not that I HAVE to weep like a baby, but maybe at some point you'll think of a way to pull out a few more emotions at the very end. I'd love to hear you read this aloud! (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, July 31, 2005

Poem Edited: Sunday, July 31, 2005

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