Back Roads

A need for it grows—not the white-knuckle stuff
With second-gear rubber, racing for a case of beer,
Dusting some kidface with a hot Chevy. I mean:
That first time I soloed in my father’s car
I drove for hours, slowly, through state forest—
A gullet of darkness ribbed out with trees.

A deer sprang from my lights, its tail bouncing,
Waving like a handkerchief off in the dark.
Wherever I’ve lived I’ve driven at night: beach-
Roads in Maine, waves burning white; one-lane
Bridges, the ridges and hollows of West Virginia.
I’ve got a letter to mail, I’ll say. And slip out.

Glide on back roads where I’ll meet no other cars.
Roll by darkened houses, safe as graves, and think
I’m the only one in the whole county awake. Then
Eyes ignite green in my lights. A white tail waves.
One night, in France, in the Alps, a wild boar,
A sanglier, stood in the road, all tusk and bristle.

I stopped. White peaks gathered behind him.
He stood there carved by my lights, a mad
And necessary thought, then ran from the road.
I watched him in a small silver field turn,
Run at the dogs, break through a thicket. Finally
I drove on with those white tusks flashing.

Sometimes, for fun, I’ll let a radio preacher yell,
Tell me how easy salvation is, how to “get saved.”
It’s as simple as the past tense. You only touch
The dial . . . mail in the tithe to Brother Sid.
Tonight what I need is that boar, the magic
Of sanglier, a word full of blood; but even

As he breaks thickets in the mind, I see
The pork-butcher, bon bourgeois, string him up,
Hang him from an ancient hook in front of his shop.
He turns slowly in the wind and into a small box
Of sawdust under his snout drip the last drops
Of that wild blood, gone, already absorbed.