HEADING NORTH

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Submitted Date 03/01/2019
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Heading North
Age 7, Florida to Connecticut, 1951
a five-day road trip, long before the interstate highways
- a prose poem -

-- This is one poem, in an autobiographical series of poems, that I posted here at WriteSpike. Go to my stories section for others. They are in chronological order. --

Always
the windows in motion
like sitting close to the big screen
at a picture show -
now full of blue sky
now dark with trees, shadows and leaves
blurry, then sharp
sudden shafts of sunlight through the limbs
and hanging strands of Spanish moss -
his plastic seat hot with the sun,
blinding

The back seat was his world for the week which seemed like all he had known. They'd left Florida and weren't going back. They were headed for Sharon, Connecticut, where he'd been born but couldn't remember.

Now was the back seat and the windows, each one different: backwards the town they had just left: receding, smaller, the road tapering away; the front blurry, cars rushing toward them, yellow dots on the road zipping under the hood, dash, dash, dash; and the side windows with their crazy geometry: picket fences, plowed fields, moving like a marching band clip, clip, clip, making swirling patterns and triangular mazes.

And when he had gotten used to the seat swaying, the constant blur, the movement from and towards, chickens and laundry running before them like waves from the bow of a ship; when this seemed normal, then they would slow down, coming into a town; and the windows would slow, and the fences would slow; and it was no longer blurry and bouncy but instead he could smell the town, the newly plowed fields, the old black men ambling in the heat, people on porches rocking and fanning themselves. At the stop light he leaned out the window and heard a woman singing in the distance, a screen door slamming, people calling to each other, people he could almost touch while the car was still, waiting for the light to change - like tasting a cold bottle of Coke his mother never let him drink, on a hot day.

Then the jangling ring of his car pulling into a station, the hard clanging tools falling on garage cement, the sweet smell of gas, the man wiping the windows to remove the smashed bugs, the bird dodo, the thin film of oil from trucks after a light rain. And stretching, getting use to standing because now he was more familiar with motion than his feet touching the ground. And when he could feel the mud squishing between his toes, the sharp gravel on the pavement, then they got back into the car, which slowly climbed up its gears until they were rushing again and the world was washing over their windows like a hurricane in Florida. And the car became the place he was, and the places they passed through like water or air, and he wasn't sure if the world was moving or the car was moving - at least that's the game he played with himself on the third day.

When the light turned gold and the low sun made the plowed fields look like black grooves etched into the earth, they stopped at small houses with bright red and blue flashing signs. The cabins were full of walls of knotty pine, like a large play house that he and his mother had to themselves. The man they shared the drive with stayed in the cabin next to theirs. The man cooked sweet fried chicken which the boy had never eaten, and he wanted to stay in this part of the world between Ft. Lauderdale and Sharon where the moss hung like Christmas icicles, and the black people sang songs in the evenings, and women laughed on their porches. When he went to sleep, he could feel the car moving under the springs of the bed.

But the next morning they were back in motion and soon the days of movement were over and he had returned to the place where he'd been born and never felt at home. The trip was over, a memory like Ft. Lauderdale, like a dream six months later in the snows of the Connecticut winter.

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  • David Ross Washington Jr 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    Wow, this is so vivid, like an old folk-tale. Reminds me of those stories that they tell at the campfire, and/or one's that or cultural stories from Native Americans over a dream catcher.

    • Rick Doble 6 months, 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, David. Never thought of it that way -- you gave me an insight into my own work.

  • Tomas Chough 6 months, 2 weeks ago

    This is awesome Rick. You really know how to describe everything with great detail. I felt drawn in and was easily able to picture images in my head. Great work!

    • Rick Doble 6 months, 2 weeks ago

      Thanks, Tomas -- I always try to imagine myself in a situation and then using all of my senses describe the world in terms of sight, smell, touch, sound, touch, and movement the way my character would experience it.

  • Kiersten Felch 5 months, 1 week ago

    You mentioned the handing spanish moss and I was there. I'm from Florida so I felt quite a bit of this description. I really love the way you describe nature and your connections.

    • Rick Doble 4 months, 2 weeks ago

      I was trying to remember this through a child's eyes where nature and the trip and movement all seem like one place without the distinctions we make as adults.