The black b-double

It leaves so soon, that thrill of the hitch
you had when you set out, in the days
wherever you ended up was good.
He never comes back, that jubilant ride
you sang along with all the way to Jacksonville
or Quito, whose favourite songs were also yours.
It comes, sure as arthritic knees, that hike
all day without a lift, walking forwards,
walking backwards, crooning to the roadkill
to bewilder the aches in your deltoids
and your supplicant thumb. How heavy
your pack then, as vehicles snarl and whip
on by with shrugs, blanks, smirks, grimaces,
thunder stared from lofty cabs, all sighing
off into wist, how heavy with things you zipped
away in pockets whose zips no longer unzip.
They never mend, those synapses, they swing
in the wind like the sorry halves of broken
suspension bridges, as you plod and fail
to remember your handful of words in Hindi,
those sentences in Borges, or street names
in some city. After noon, it all compounds,
the chronic ennui, the pains, fatigue, the creep
of obliviscence. The wind screams like a drill
sergeant, irate at your unfitness, till you can’t
raise a thought, save an arm, to save yourself.
No sound then but the wind, gone hoarse,
and the trudging of your breath
across an Atacama of the mind.
It comes, in time, the rumble
of the ride we know is coming,
quivering as it passes through
the vertical lake back there.
Its chrome and glass absorb the glare.
It dopplers down through the gears now,
preparing to stop for you. Its grille is caked
with gore. It tows too many trailers.
And the driver – the driver pullulates,
like the mirage, with swallowed faces.

First published in Antipodes: A global journal of Australian/New Zealand literature, volume 35, Issue 1, 2021. Illustration by Adam Browne.

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