1. TOWARD YOUR NARRATIVE FOR A WAY BACK.
On occasion the road is wolves
and it's make a move at all
for a body in tatters Let's
say there is a way to
retrace steps and
undo a braid For me
it would be under a bridge of some
popularity rife with folklore all that and
maybe I'd take up company with
its pack of wild orphan snake eaters and
its hundred rumored ghosts and
there we all would have
made a barrel fire and
cooked our supper in it and
in it later we'd watch our
authors burn See
you have to hold tight to
a thought a rumor that
in some small way the death of a thing is
its way back to itself that
living could be referential in
the way that images of
a poem could be just
for show and that's all
and not at all
a road home
2. TOWARD YOUR CHARACTER STUDY.
It's one of those times you have
to listen to ghosts, reader. You're in on a plot.
Maybe it was boredom, what we did. I've heard
sometimes there are pockets of hot summer air
caught in the ridgelines until January at least
and that to find yourself in one
is peer to possession. Maybe that's all it was,
some earthly spur in the side, something
to undo. Remember
when you first heard
the story of Lay Bridge. You and I had
spent an entire afternoon on a drug store crawl
for the right kind of Dramamine.
(Bless you, Eckerd's of Easley, dark horse
of the Highway 123 strip mall mile, champion
of the overpriced concealer and the underpriced
condom, for your mislabeled and opportune
orthopedics aisle.) And afterward,
remember my friends called us out
to a doublewide they'd scored rent-free
off Uncle Rob for the summer, and when
we got there the fire they'd made
in the red clay driveway, and not thirty minutes
later the sound of some dog in the woods
to drive us all inside.
That's when you heard it first.
This was after the electric cracked off, after
the candles were organized on the old fold-out
poker table, before we had to shave out the freezer
to keep the beers cold, just when we'd let our story
You knew it then, I bet.
You knew then that if any little stage of the world
would give a way home, Lay Bridge was it.
3. TOWARD YOUR SAGE WORDS.
Saghost story. Won work less snight.
Drive yrself outtthlay bridge. Bring
yr talcum powdr but don wer shoes.
Sit yr keys ontop thcar and
dust thwhole thing with yr talcum,
thn pace circls tilit happns.
An say this thwhole time ydo an
start in a whispr but go loudr, say:
lay bridge lady, lay bridge lady,
I got yr little baby.
4. TOWARD YOUR NARRATIVE FOR A WAY BACK.
It just that sometimes it's
the ears of the wolf in your fists
It's not like this was a push it wasn't
dragging the thing off of you or
tricking it with a thrown coat
It was a lock It was a means by which to
measure hunger yours
or its But
it might've been a fox It might've been
limping or thin or afraid The lock
might not have been it coming at
but cowering from
you then your hand its little
it might've been an arbor and
a marriage It might've been a river rock
bridge how crossing it
something like the ambling
Earth is a smallness while
the cave there deep
in the basin is a hook a home a little
lock all its own
5. TOWARD YOUR SAGE WORDS.
I didn't count the stories
as I heard them. In one, the Lay Bridge Lady
is a beaten woman. In another, she is a bus driver.
In another, she is a passerby. As a beaten woman,
she is pregnant. She escapes her husband
to drown under the bridge. As a bus driver,
she is barren. She leads her charge of schoolchildren
into the river. As a passerby, she is a mother.
The old spirits stop her on the bridge; they take
her child; she drowns herself out of grief.
In this story, the spirits are shamed.
They free her baby to the wild. They say to him
leave this place. They say to him come to us again
later, and with language. It will bring
your mother back to you.
6. TOWARD YOUR POEM.
Talcum powder at Wal-Mart is $2.78.
I buy three bottles and that's all, and for this
I receive a sixteen-inch receipt, one plastic bag,
and an estimated four pitying looks.
A father of so many, they must think. At his age.
Lay Bridge Road is seven-and-one-quarter miles
from the Central Wal-Mart. On a Wednesday
at 1:04 am, this is a twelve-minute drive.
If you are lost, follow signs into Six Mile.
If you are in Six Mile, follow signs into Cateechee.
If you are in Cateechee, take a right.
I park in the middle of the bridge.
I pop the lids off my three bottles of Great Value
talcum powder with the bottom end of a Bic.
This takes seven minutes. It takes an additional
four minutes to empty my Great Value talcum powder
over the car roof, the hood, all of it.
I do what I 've been told: switch on
the headlights, put the keys on the roof,
empty the pockets, take off the shoes. Then I pace
circles around the car. I say what I have been told
will lure out a ghost, the vowels of it
loosened and thick, language like a body
in my throat, as much a determination
of spit as of myth, and with it I wait
for an image across the water, shadowed
at first, but then, I've heard, bright blue,
like the underbelly of a hungry dog.
I don't count the minutes as I wait them out.
In Cateechee, someone shoots a gun.
I wipe enough talcum powder from the car hood
for a place to sit. I search the tree line. I wish I'd bought
a case of beer at Wal-Mart. Then I leave.
7. TOWARD YOUR THEATRICAL RELEASE.
How she dragged her body and the old wet petticoat
with it like they said and like they said adorned
in bludgeoned snakes dragging with her from the foot
of the bridge now to you and unlike they said
how she took the face of your mother and led pitying
when she danced with you on the road's north entrance or
what word she wrote in the talcum powder what consolation or
when you'd told her where you'd been and what took you
8. TOWARD YOUR NARRATIVE FOR A WAY BACK.
Off of Lay Bridge Road, the Cateechee Church of God
marks a way to Norris through Christ. Red clay
blots the parking lot in strands wide as tractor wheels,
braids of it like a kind of history, a roster
of who's been there. While the parish exchanges casseroles,
we kids busy ourselves with this immediate
wonder of tire tracks, retracing the language of mud.
We don't know much. Out of the parking lot, the church sign
emerges, a white, fluorescent fist. It reads,
"GOD WANTS WHAT'S RIGHT, NOT WHAT'S LEFT"
and that's that, I guess.
In Cateechee, the old shotgun houses
sit dim and wild, disorganized, as if they'd been spilled there
years ago, as if you'd have to dig at one to get in.
Some time from now, you'll tell me
this wasn't a home, a foxhole, a room
with my name on it. From inside that room,
I am telling you that there is a home here; there
is a home here for you.
Out of the red clay, a body
makes itself all on its own. Motherless and fatherless,
this new intelligence pauses to think
and then moves onward. In Cateechee,
someone shoots a gun. In Six Mile, four kids
make a fire in the driveway
and wait out the dog in the woods.