Interstate Sonnet, by Carl Marcum
A cigarette kiss in the desert. The wind-proof arc
of flame sparks inside the speeding Buick. Menthol:
a break from the monotony of highway nicotine—
most intimate of drugs. Make this mean sorrow
or thermodynamics, whatever small gesture
there is time for. Light another one, the vainglorious
interstate dusk and ash—the long, silver tooth.
This shirtless abandon, this ninety-mile-an-hour
electric laugh. The edges of windshield, haphazard
chatter. The clatter of the hubcap and the thunderclap:
the white-hot retinal memory of your life as a Joshua tree.
Permanence in the passenger seat. This long haul,
this first drag—nothing like cinnamon, nothing
like the iron taste on the back of your mortal tongue.
This poem is full of sights and sounds that I love, and that I find totally relevant to my life. Two of my favorite pastimes are long road trips and smoking while driving. The open road is my cathedral — and no one there minds me singing off key or chain smoking.
This is the first I’ve read of Marcum’s work, but I look forward to browsing more. I’ve worn my second-hand book of Contemporary American Poetry to shreds, and really would like to read more of poets that created the bulk of their body of work after 1970. Very refreshing.