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Winter 2006

Fall 2005

Driving Through America (for Michael R. Brown)
Chris Mooney-Singh

Driving with the pony-tailed poet in his red convertible
            from Chicago to Austin ,
through Mid-West farmlands with their concrete silos,
down to the spring carpet of Southern grass and blue-bonnets,
I slowly begin to see that America of the wide open prairies,
has been sold the same story in Illinois , Missouri , Arkansas and Texas —
big States arterially fed by freeways and oil-war price-hiked gas stations,
as we tour the ploughed counties of Flat Earth Society membership
            and the God-in-Whom-We-Trust small towns,
between neon motels and cashiers with their polite dentures
as we stop off at Wendys, IHOP, Schlotskys, El Chicos
            and other choice franchises,
where lipsticked waitresses keep working their tip
            from 15 to 20%, buttering us with Darlin' and Honey,
as my friend, the poet, warns of bowing to the free economy
passing by Walmart on the outskirts that has eaten up small town enterprise,
as we suck for days and nights on lemon jubes
            like comforting wish-stones.

My friend, veteran of civil rights, teacher of 40 years,
instructs me further between egg-and-bacon breakfasts
            with pancakes on the side
about country folk who once formed lynch mobs —
            against union man, folk singer, hobo and negro,
and students and poets who marched in the civil-rights ranks,
how the Leader fell like an angel off his rocking-horse cloud,
gunned down as the eye of the Lord released a lone-star tear,
and I listen as we drive into the diet-coke, fried-chicken sunset.

Yes the scholar-poet, steering his red convertible
is mostly cynical between Chicago and Austin
of the big machine of America still chasing
            its oil-soaked ass into the new millennium,
how the price-tag of everything right down to a coat-hanger
depends on oil wells and Arabs, belligerent as camels,
how US policy rides the back of the dragon and tiger economies
            in cheap labour-force Asia ,
how the fundamental folk of God-Bless-America
            enjoy the obesity of free economy,
in heart-attack country, electrified by radiation cancer-grids.

Yet, his voice keeps throwing its small pebble at the windscreen,
            hoping to wake up rich girls in the country houses,
so they might elope at night to the simple life
            of un-mortgaged wide-open American dreamscapes
            where the mind can blow its dandelion of wishes
            and return to the soul-prairie, bustling with imaginary bison
for still he believes any poet must raise an eyebrow
            about the media-howling of top-dog economics,
how the poet must keep saying No when all are saying Yes ,
how he must offer Surely when the herd is saying Impossible .
He keeps intoning Sky, Tree, Rock and Flower
while the radio hypnotically hums Burger King, Tampon and Aspirin,
because true progress comes from dialogue with the old tree
            swaying in the wind like an evergreen voice,
and the pony-tailed poet keeps traveling
            between the past and his inner Icarus,
negotiating the strip maps toward a distant gathering of poets,
sucking a lemon toffee like a loose tooth clunking in the mouth,
singing old scraps of folk songs blue-printed in childhood,
initiating me with liturgical cadences like an old testament prophet,
defining his sense of purpose through well-dressed phrases
            until the stonewall end of our spoken-word days.