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SALVATION

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It’s not that I harbor a weeping willow
Shadow’s worth of longing for those cloaked
Turns and straight-aways, or that swampy
South Mississippi was ever half as tragic
As I dreamed it could be, but that I still cruise
From time to time in the dope-ripe
Ford Fairlane of the mind where nothing
Has changed, where we remain hopelessly
Stoned devotees of the TOWN OF LEAKESVILLE
Emblazoned upon the graffitied water tower’s
Testimonies to love. We believed speed
Would save us, would take us fast
And far away from the junkyard wrecks
Stacked in their mile-long convoy to nowhere.
And though losing the way should
Have seemed the worst of divine betrayals,
We took it as a minor fall from grace,
Tail-spun over the embankment rail, rocking
That flung steel body down as if to play
A bar-chord on the barbed-wire fence.
I’ll never know what angelic overseer
Was bored and on duty that night, but we
Rose up and climbed out of the warped last
Breath of that car, no one with so much
As a scratch on his head, not a drop
Of beer spilt, and the radiator hissing
Like a teapot in hell when someone yelled
She’s gonna blow! and each of us standing
There, starving for something more,
Something other than the black wheel
Spinning that sudden dark, cricketed quiet.

Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 1998)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 1998 issue of Poetry magazine

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SALVATION

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