by Justin Beaudrot
Threadbare tires wear on asphalt roads,
heavy with the weight of an old Pontiac
Firebird. Once vibrantly red, now a pale
maroon from years of sitting in the sun.
Thick layers of pollen and dust cling
to the body even speeding down
this backcountry freeway. From the farms
around Tupelo, Mississippi, to the skyline
of Atlanta, Georgia, I drive as fast
as I can to get back to a place I call home.
The setting Alabama sun glares at me
through the rearview mirror. The last
rays of an orange light crawl across
the dash. I flip the switch that raises
dim headlights to prepare for a long
night ahead. I roll down the windows
and the sound of cool, country air
rushes in like a river through rapids.
My hands tight on the steering wheel,
I try to avoid all the potholes. Uncomfortable
jolts mark my misjudgement. Hardened
oil slicks look like shadows in the night.
The tall pines edging the road stand
as still as the trees they are, though appear
as a blur when I go by them. This would-be
phoenix roars down these streets
with all the fury of a classic American
muscle car, but creaks on worn out
shocks. I forget to stop for gas
in Birmingham. I realize this just past
the exit for Austell. An infrequent pit
and patter of the engine I figured
for a fluke turns out to be the last
bits of gasoline going through the
cylinders. Now the engine knocks
loudly and jumps a little. Certain now
of what is happening, I begin to search
for signs of a station. Instead all I get
are the lights from Atlanta staring at me
from just over thirty miles away.