Laura McDermott: Scenes from the Rearview Mirror

_______________

1.

Barreling through the Everglades
on the 85 mile stretch
of two lane highway linking
civilization to civilization
a land bridge of asphalt,
you, Lover, appear there beside me,
bumming off a ride.
For the loveliest words
I wished you’d say
are the words I have not said.
This flat road stretches
like the highway of the mind
leaving garages full
of soundless engines,
their silence threading a tunnel,
etched with the cold moisture
of a solitary wildflower,
whose delicate fists
bursting in fuchsia
without a direction, as gentle signs
emerging from the ashes
of a recent burn in the pine.
Those words ashy as they float off into
the afternoon sky of an exasperated summer.

Remembering you, Lover, is good
for recovery, in solitude
amid the crazies, addicts and strangers,
as my first week here passes.
The loveliest drive
is on an untraveled road.
The loveliest lover
is the one I haven’t made love to.
The loveliest days
are those I unbearably lived through.
I hold onto the thought that
this vehicle of life
will surely carry me
to sunnier terrain,
filling my charcoal eyes
with laughter once more,
while I drive this path
that’s taking me onward:
I am alone without you,
though, in this dream,
I am lonely with you beside me.

_______________

2.

Father,
you are drunkenness
and I am the lovechild
of cholesterol and bile.
In the dark of the
machine shop,
I became an angry child,
unsobered to your truths
that girls must marry men
who know how to remove the coil assembly
and change their own sparkplugs.
I was the girl who never
wore pink, played
with empty beer cans
and sparkplugs ,
who cleaned up
the vomit you’d passed out in
those late nights on the
concrete garage floor.

_______________

3.

Remembering you, Lover, is to write
about you in my thoughts,
dreams etched in humidity’s frost
covering my windshield.
As I sit back
in the driver’s seat,
the car hurtles me deeper
into the memory of your voice,
cradling not the words
but of the world you spoke
and you within it,
that one we drove those miles ago.

Clutching the steering wheel
all I have written of you
flowers in the glade,
open in bursts of red,
each honeyed beam
sets these confessional rays,
confined within my tongue,
loose with the cursive blue of freedom
that makes the winds rise.

But meanings
can’t be absorbed
by your ears, sponge
filled with brackish water
needing to be rung out.
Soundless bold wings
then carry my words out
the open passenger window.
And as we continually travel
on this dream highway
we are separated
like the center console
in this vehicle, we are exiled
from the place we began.

_______________

4.

I see Father alone at times,
body leaned over the car
with grim determination,
touching hand to the
hot big block, like a sheet
to a flame at the bottom
of the pile as the fire roars upward.
He smooths his mustache
with the back of his hands
as decades of careful work
turn black in the cuticles,
mud and grease all around,
knuckles full of scars,
his half-witted efforts
gin up something good,
something semi-permanent,
like a car crash I can’t turn from,
or a vivid memory at the machine shop
interrupted by a moment of weeping
that I to have left behind
so long ago in a shimmering cloud
from the exhaust pipe.

_______________

5.

At this late hour
on this August night,
I am again filled with words
that aren’t chassis nor red
like a roadside flair.
Instead, they are eternal.
like time or matter,
as if a second person inside me
now takes a specific word out
and puts another in its place
and then removes that one
completely from the manifold
and substitutes it with
intense darkness
scored by vivid red lines.
It is beautiful
to hear this drum
of a new heartbeat.
My words are not sad,
but bitter, for all sweetness
is cast out the window
on this desolate drive.
They flutter in a final breath,
and then fall from the sky
as an acidic rain.

_______________

6.

The shadows
on the asphalt
through these Everglades
imply my origin,
revealing my lane
is really one way.
For so long
I’ve sat idling
halfway between
the drainage ditch
and the stars.

From my driver’s seat
I focus on the grasses
I focus on the reptiles
I focus on my father
I focus on the image of you,
your mirage in the passenger seat.

My eyes
are now the same color
as the snakes and gators
crawling from a grassy ditch
to swallow whole
the expectations
I placed on a
father who tried
despite his drunken faults.

But
for you,
Lover,
they come
for blood
dismembering
your head
your body
your heart
and the words
I attempted
to deliver to you.

I pull the Mustang over
leaving you
at mile marker 63 in the
thicket of this transitional place,
a brush where few leaves
are able to hang on.

This is where I
evict you as the person
inside my struggle,
casting your name
towards the heavens
to combust in the heat.

_______________

7.

This is the emancipating power of nonsense.
Leaving you curbside,
believing it will be the loveliest drive
with a father I can now understand.

I see the sun perched
on the horizon in my side views
bursting with the phosphorescence
of Independence Day.

No other will tailgate within my shadows.
No one else will sleep within my dreams.

I embark on this road not yet traveled

lauraheadshot2

Laura McDermott Matheric, a true native of South Florida, was born and raised in Broward County, Florida. She is the founder and executive director of Orange Island Arts Foundations and is a tenured assistant professor of English at Broward College and recipient of the 2014 Wells Fargo Endowed Teaching Chair. Laura studied creative writing at Florida State University and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry from Florida International University. Because of her dedication to higher education and writing, Laura received recognition as a 2008 Conference on College Composition and Communication Professional Equity Project Grant Recipient and was awarded the 2012 Paragon Award by the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. She is the 2014-2015 Writer-in-Residency of Girls’Club, a private foundation and alternative space which inspires cultural growth in Broward County, Florida. As a member of the Miami Poetry Collective, her poetry is regularly featured in its Cent Journal Series: A Modern Anthology of Miami Poets, and her poems can also be found in various publications such as Screw Iowa!; the Virginia Key website; The Selected Collective: Volume VIII of Tigertail, a South Florida Poetry annual; and Poets&Artists. She also won honorable mention in the 2013 Poetry Society of Virginia’s annual poetry contest. Laura has developed several literary projects within her local community and served as the festival coordinator of a South Florida poetry festival for more than nine years.

A version of this poem received honorable mention in the 2013 Poetry Society of Virginia’s annual poetry contest.

 

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