Rose Swartz
Road Deep Dream

After so many decades Detroit still burns.
A man in a disheveled coat stands on the overpass,
above the Dan Ryan, mid-afternoon:
he raises his arms at the elbows, flaps them up and down;
Stares at the swarming traffic. We return the gesture,
get closer. All of us float, silent, above the ghost town of autos,
rattling the chain-link, preparing to take off.

We stick our arms out from the Midwest to the desert;
sails and bushel baskets twine-tied to the roof.
Our clothes become ragged nests.
We watch the motel signs' panels yellow to grey—
smoker's tooth, burnt marshmallow; inhale
mugs of cheap coffee. Steam sipped burnt-tongue fast:
Sweet and Low snowstorm, too much powdered creamer.
Complimentary soap makes our skin flake like stucco—
the ceilings of cheap rooms we rent. We hold each other's eyes
open nightly we kiss the tops of our prickly collector-catcher skulls.

Spit gobs tremble in the rough soil,
dogs chew at doll heads.
The junkyard man in Reno wears
a torn tank top, a filthy red ball cap.

I was the first one out here he says, pointing
down the valley—scrubby desert patches,
half-dozen plots marked by the same
wrought iron heaps.

Trailers sit upended: headstones among
the coaster cars, wooden opera house doors,
mounds of soda bottles—they were still made of glass—
thick brown and green.

The rear view mirrors of spent autos
shoot back spots of sun.
Cracked windshields and headlight caves
create prisms.

Pacific Coast, highway 101,
Sitka pines mark the curves,
the road grows more narrow
gravelly as we pass. Single sign / left arrow
washboard bumpy—
tannic acid, orange dirt.

Wind gusts and the payphone receiver
bite my ears the way I like:
grinning through smudged plexi-glass.
Quarters slice the asphalt,
spill back through the thread of blue smoke.
Looping a sparrow's path past
blown down barbed wire over
pebble pit fence, a fallen antenna.

    4 1/2.
The hush around these places
a candy crane claw or bell jar descending—
Become the museum:

    camera in my pocket
    camera in my side bag
    camera in my breath

my fingertips, lenses,
                digging in the gravel
                shutters in my pores.

Insects in clouds, cicadas and grackles screaming,
we arrive at the clearing of modern reliquary:
achingly empty vessels lay open in the sun.
Desk drawers, clay pots, filing cabinets,
shelves and lunchboxes,
suitcases and washed out pickle jars,
thimbles and fish tanks, ornate picture frames.
We empty our details, our vehicle, our hands and our heads.
We pour in the memory, thick and slow,
we are silent and graceful as beekeepers.

Now watch the wind rustle the pages,
listen to the contented creak
drawers heavy with pulp and ink,
silver and fiber, photographs gloss
reflecting like rear view mirrors in the desert sun.
Here are our objects entombed and shining.
Half-buried in the Olympic earth.
We can fold our arms and sigh and point,
proud as the junkman in his early years.