by Joy Priest
after Robert Frost’s “Directive”
It becomes too much for us,
so, we take a dip. Ride
aimless down this parkway
parting unruly brush. Nature
so heavy it feels, at any moment,
ready to erupt & absorb
this silly city men have made.
We are magnificent & overhead
the trees crowd, like a mob,
into canopy. The butt of his boxed Chevy
sways across double-yellow bars,
across eroded lanes cutting
east-to-west across our side
of the city.
Across Beech & Cypress, 22nd &
18th where it turns into Dixie.
Past Park Hill’s dull yellow brick,
its clotheslines and identical yards
—building after numbered building
crossing the glass globes of my eyes.
Past the hair store, Grand Mkt.,
the apts. where my father lived
when I met him, & the loud, teal
awning of Shark’s Fish & Chicken.
I sit shotgun sans seat belt.
Tonight, knot-gutted—that tell
for fear. Maniac is leant
behind the wheel, eyes nearly closed,
in his gut: a fistful of pills,
those tiny yellow footballs. Before
he slams into that giant pin oak
down the pkwy, before the steam
& the rust flakes floating
through the one beam
of that insistent headlight,
that streetlamp giving up
to the dark, something telling me
to get out. When I leave
his grey Caprice, I step out of
a dimension, a place in my youth
I can’t return to. How quick
the fire turns to ash as I hand
the smoke to him. He is pulling away.
The cigarillo is slipping through
his dangled fingers to join the ground
like every ending thing. He’s done
enough to escape our streets—
or named for the trees.
Joy Priest is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky. She is the recipient of the 2016 Hurston/Wright Foundation’s College Writers’ Award, and has received support from the Fine Arts Work Center at Provincetown, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Kentucky Arts Council, and the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She is currently an MFA candidate at the University of South Carolina where she teaches and serves as Senior Editor for Yemassee Journal. Her poetry and prose has appeared or is upcoming in Blackbird, Callaloo, Drunken Boat, Third Coast, Best New Poets 2014 and 2016, and The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, among others.