In the zone (rack & run)
I think her name was Pauline, maybe Paulette or Paula.
It was a time when names floated
and life never stood still.
On our second date I took her to Swat Sullivan’s
and we shot a few games of straight eight—
she took me six out of six.
She had a way of raising the stick, just right,
cue ball lifted slightly dropping one after
another until the table was run.
After we drank a couple of pitchers
of Genesee she told me of the time
she hitched from Binghamton
to Buffalo, trucker with the Stetson
who seemed ok until
he made the turn down a dark road
off route 63 outside Dansville.
She wasn’t beautiful,
but she had a pleasant look, great smile
and an easy manner
except when it came to sex,
which after the story I understood.
I’d borrow my friend Dave’s ’55 Bel Air wagon
and we’d drive into the cornfields above State Road,
smoke a fat joint,
drink sweaty bottles of Bud
and watch the night unfold—
those downtown lights twinkling from way up high.
Invariably we ended up back at Swat’s,
Genny drafts warming on the table, pool sticks in hand.
She was the queen of the room,
an empress in fact if I look back on how clearly she shone.
Clang of chains on a broken highway
When the music starts we head inside
to hear Tom Russell wail the old standards
and it hits me like an avalanche on Raton
Pass. In fact it’s Townes “Snowin' on Raton”
that takes me on a wild toad ride to a place
in my head I thought was dead. My fingers
tingle, feet itch, stage lights take on the hue
of a golden oracle. I’m back there, snow
falling wild and crazy, busted two-lane snaking
through the pass, no guardrails, eight thousand
feet up, canyon far below, Larry white knucklin'
the beat-to-shit yellow Gremlin stoned on hash
and Coors, the navigator not much better. We’re
looking for a shelter, anywhere with four sides
and a roof will do when we spot a light far
away then closer and closer and we’re inside
a run-down tavern with three faucets spewing
tired beer, a tired young woman fixing beers
into our hands and later she says, “Sure,
you can crash at our pad.” We follow her truck
lights flickering through freshly falling snow,
fast curves, wind blowing an Antonioni dream.
We arrive in a valley beneath trees so high
they block the sky. She leads us to a warm fire,
a bottle of bad Chianti and a pile of blankets
to ward off the nightmares and demons.
(earlier version published in Nerve Cowboy #30, 2010)
Marc Swan lives in Portland Maine. Poems coming out this year in Gargoyle,
Mudfish, Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy, among others. His third collection,
Simple Distraction, was published by tall-lighthouse, London, England in 2009.