East by Very Slow Degrees
by Carol Alexander


Eating ersatz, sleeping sideways on the vinyl, getting smoked just east of Flint, that smiling nomad telling how they pickle cherries in formaldehyde so we'd nevermore inveigle them from whiskey sours on the tray; breaking down in Pittsburgh one July cursed the naming cities game and with the wagon lifted like a child, the squint eyed steward peeling from our wad the money meant for razor clams and gin, we crossed the highway to the green motel, begging with a wrinkled ten the use of shower, of tepid swimming pool, there being nothing in our memories to beat that curdled Pittsburgh heat, twilight falling well before he put the car in gear and swore off casual haunts and drove the ghostly post road to its blue-lined beckoning end and told us all to hold it in, reveling in slumgullion of oaths, every mile scored with sighs and groans and silent imprecations from the two of us assured of nothing more than woe whenever we drove east by very slow degrees and only a father raised beneath the trestles of the elevated train could signal such relief in passing foul Elizabeth and give a shout of homecoming and that is how we tell the tale, every syllable in blue transmogrified like songs of hill men headed back through mists and riven trails.






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