Looking for the Beautiful Things

I live in Texas now. & in the next lane over on I-10
BIG JEFF is soaring at twin-speed toward the dusk-pending horizon 

& something base & graceful has taken us over
like, if I took my hands off the wheel, we could lift into the air & become 

part of the indistinguishable wave of laughing gulls above. 
BIG JEFF says his license plate, which I first checked when I let him pass 

10 miles back because his lights behind me
were the Second Coming (or the First Coming, in his case, if we’re making 

the usual jokes about men with big trucks). 
But I don’t want to make unbecoming jokes about BIG JEFF, who is 

right now, accompanying me down this interstate 
of solitude, not leaving me behind or riding my bumper, just gliding 

beside me as if he needs someone too, as if he trusts me 
& said to himself in his blue-lit interior, Hey, I’m gonna hang on her wing.

She seems to know how to get where we’re going.
She’s probably a hellcat. No balls hanging from his tow bar, just BIG JEFF 

on his pearlescent Ford Super Duty, which has a row of three 
headlights on each side & which, I admit, I was more than annoyed by 

when he came up behind me like an astrodome 
on wheels. But Texas is home now & this is the way of things—BIG JEFF 

& NASA, tacos & trucks. The only state with more guns 
than Kentucky, the expert at the range told me before I left. I am an expert 

at beginnings, a Lone Star once again, as I have been 
in every state I’ve lived—the Bluegrass, the Garden, the Palmetto, the Bay—

each time hoping I’m closer to the beautiful things.


Copyright © 2021 by Joy Priest. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 20, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“This poem came to me last year when I was driving from New Orleans back to Houston, my new home. It felt as if I’d been moving around the country, its landscapes and interstates, in isolation for a long time—maybe since I’d left Kentucky in 2015. Anyways, it was Thanksgiving and a friend’s mom let me stay in her Airbnb since her scheduled guests had canceled their reservations. I’d never been to New Orleans and I needed to get out of my apartment, which I’d been in every day, alone, since June. On the way back, riding down the coastal highway, I noticed BIG JEFF, the homie. We kind of ebbed and receded in speed alongside each other for 100 miles or so. I felt a good vibe. Maybe it had something to do with these generosities-at-a-distance I’d been seeing throughout the pandemic and which had just been extended to me. Shoutout to Lori, Bernardo’s mom. Shoutout to Community Book Center in New Orleans. BIG JEFF if you see this, come get some potato salad!”
Joy Priest