Time to Drive
November. Bobbie gets real banged up by a Buick at Pico and Carmona. Broadsided by a 90 year old gnome driving a yolky yellow Skylark. She loses the baby later that day at Cedars-Sinai and by the end of the month sheds the boyfriend she sadly dreads as well. Way too late for them to try again. Bobbie loads her books into empty wine boxes and buys some tires. Waiting.
Somewhere on an island in Lake Superior a timber wolf runs a yearling deer down. Bobbie decides there's no more time to waste and heads north on I-15 and picks up eastbound 80 going 85.
Near Cheyenne, Wyoming Route 80 skates to a shuddering, stuttering stop. Four lanes of black ice and a herd of Chicago-bound semis surround Bobbie's car. She's been driving for 15 hours on a quart of Bucky's and a catnap. The rearview is filled with halogen stamps and yellow spins. Bobbie sees cherry colored bars of brake light that look like licorice and gnaws her lower lip. She fidgets the dial looking for anything but more Lord-Jesus-deliver-us chat or cheesy chorals. Then, between the steel needles of static a small miracle occurs. Steve Reich is on the radio, filling all space and polishing the crazy stars outside the idling car. Music for 18 Musicians same as 20 years away far on the dusty floor of a teensy walk up. There she was, flat on the boards and floored by the coherency of what was pouring out of the radio. First hearing. Calmness nearing. This is the piece that can patch the new dark and dim numb she carries in an overheated car with California plates. Hundredth hearing. Calmness nearing. Same as it ever was.
Bobbie drives the just salted lane slow at break of day through a jumble of jackknifed trucks and sirens. The windshield reflecting the blue ribbons of a so shy and a so rosy dawn.
One island within a curving necklace of 12 islands keeps calling out hard to Bobbie. But no budding trees beckon and no loosened, singing water invites her to wade. It is Winter's chant cajoling her ever northward.
Bobbie can hear the banging black plates of ice and she floors it. So close now to the place where her becoming began. She drives at a creep across the groaning ice to sleep all alone and emptied in a one room peeled log cabin. Seedling pines planted one once ago Arbor Day now stand 40 feet tall. Their shadows swallow the snug cabin whole.
December. The couple who built this cabin have been buried for years already. Bobbie knew this as a kid but swam at their thumbnail of sandy beach anyway. Now she's back eating a crust of diamond snow. Waiting.
Within three weeks of arriving this time she knows that the dead couple were both taken in sleep, just shy of a year apart, both hollering out loud about hundreds of sapphire blue snakes and a long-gone dog come to meet them at the driftwood gate. She knows all this because she sleeps on the floor where their bed once stood. She sleeps in a bleached square of wonder and enters their odd, old dreams willingly and every morning reluctantly swims away from the dreaming. When first light breaks she drags herself arm over arm back to consciousness and remembers there is no one beside her, and not much work to be done but tracking the sun across that washed out sky. Bobbie waits for the sun to set.
When night drops down straight and hard the stains that reach over into the southern sky begin to spread. Ladders and stairs of light shoot up and sideways across the sky. Bobbie swears she hears murmurs, heart beats and symphonies all going at once under these timeless, crooked klieg lights. She lies flat on a bench she's dragged outside, breath steaming like a horse. She's stitched tight to dumbest, wordless awe, pinned down under that open endless window. Bobbie watches the billowing curtains of light sweep and flutter acid greens, iron reds and sulphur yellows all across the star smashed sky. This is the one film she never tires of. She stays out most nights until hands and feet freeze bluegrey then tiptoes indoors with a stumble to sleep deep again. Hard beside the hearth in a leaky down bag that still smells of old sex and eucalyptus.
Bobbie eats the canned venison and clouded jars of wild blueberry jam she found stacked tidy in the dug cellar. No guessing when it was put up but she never gets sick and she never wants for much more than that night sky and her backseat filled with books.
She starts writing tankas in the snow: This high holy show—Unfurls in sweeping curtains—Flying lights burn green—Heaven's pulsing heart beats hard—Deep within a blackened sky.
She writes tankas in the snow and knows she is home. Home until the cracking lake ice sounds like gunshots. Then it's time to drive.