Best Worst Year: Episode 38 (Or, Car Wheels and a Double)

The breath of summer has reduced one last draw of heat into a dying cherried cinder, and you wake up to the sound of September thunder rattle against a loose piece of siding above the bedroom window. A jump cut, quick change, transitionless entry into fall. You wake up in a different season and it makes you wonder what else you’ve missed while you were sleeping. You walked out of your apartment this morning and were overwhelmed by absence. It made you think of the Larry Levis poem, “The Double,” and the image of the man who realizes he’s waiting for no one and goes to the movies alone on Saturdays. It’s like walking into an empty room and finding a cold spot with bare feet on hardwoods. A delay of reflex or memory or something else bound to us with an alchemy only those with memories yoked to comic timing ever really notice. For a skip on the vinyl, now and place slipped away into sensation. Maybe it was the smell of a toasted blueberry bagel coming from through the neighbor’s screen door or wearing a jacket for the first time this season, but whatever the cue, however the trigger, you were elsewhere for a moment–long enough to know what long enough feels like.

As the engine turned over you chased after what remained of that moment–in a desperate clutch of vanish too desperate to recognize. It’s like the last instant of sunset–the sun seemingly takes forever to sink into the horizon until the gradual gives way to the gravity of inevitable. Then gone. Gone like you knew what gone would be but still there’s a moment of insistent wonder. The rain falls faster, you think, but you notice that your overcoat is soaked. How long was I standing outside? The radio is local static–auto marts and dollar drafts and morning dj’s are white noise loud enough you find yourself driving in silence. The car is steel and fiberglass purring quietly along Veterans Parkway. Traffic moves with you; inside your pulse. You’re connected to the highway like you’ve been connected to the road all along–even if this is a morning commute as route as learning multiplication tables.

The sky is a gun metal tarnish of weather. You wind the window down to listen to your tires slide and slosh through the runoff of a crowned road. You ride the shoulder–white median margin walking just shy of rumble strips. You are the hollow bottle echo slowly taking up space as breath in your car. You lean your head against the driver-side window. Breathe. You’re as present as the cars accumulating like leaves at the stoplight. You’re behind a school bus. The blondest of blonde children in a red raincoat can barely see over the seat, but she sticks her tongue out at you. You taste ashes. It’s been a long time since you’ve had a cigar but right now you’d kill for a Rocky Patel Decade– hand-rolled Dark Sumatra broadleaf is heavy in your empty hand. You close your eyes and you’re leaning hard against a brick wall.

And you exhale the billowing white overcast. It turns to rain. The Dodge behind you is laying on his horn. Green lights and you know you’ve got to get straight with the day.

At the risk of getting lost, the places inside us which forge memory from the piecemeal fragments of forget can temper days with a lingering sting. The absent shape is so formless but familiar. It’s almost identifiable but yet the ring of its bell comes to us as echo from silence. If you search long enough the roads ahead become miles behind. You burn good fuel chasing dead ends. These fleet and faint ghosts we’ve called poems inside our chests pull at us, clinging with a desperate tender touch which brings us closer to who we are but never truly take us back to who we were. We are the summation of all the doors we’ve closed behind us but it is only when we walk out into the light of day that we realize what we’ve missed by staying indoors for so long. For today, home is a pocket in an autumn jacket which we pull over our uneven shoulders.


Jim Warner is the Managing Editor of Quiddity International Literary Journal and Public Radio Program at Benedictine University and the author of two poetry collections Too Bad It’s Poetry and Social Studies (Paper Kite Press). His poetry has appeared in various journals including The North American Review, PANK Magazine, and Drunken Boat. Jim received his MFA at Wilkes University. He lives in Springfield, IL and rarely carries an umbrella. 

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