MARILYN L. TAYLOR, Ph.D., former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin and of the city of Milwaukee, is the author of eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which, titled Step on a Crack, was published by Kelsay Books in 2016. Her poems and essays have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Able Muse, Measure, Light, Rhino, Aesthetica, Mezzo Cammin, and the Random House anthology titled Villanelles. She has been awarded First Place in a number of national and international poetry contests, and recently received the 2015 Margaret Reid Award for verse in forms, as well as a 2016 Pushcart Prize nomination from LIGHT Poetry Journal. Her own widely-read “Poet to Poet” column on craft appeared bi-monthly for five years in The Writer magazine, and she currently serves as a co-editor for Third Wednesday and Verse-Virtual poetry journals.
More about Marilyn
Drive All Night
Simply set your cruising speed at sixty-eight,
stick to the Interstate, and you’ll arrive
like morning’s minion, pal—your hair
wind-flattened on one side, pulse walloping
at optimum efficiency, tight schedule intact.
Just repeat after me: avoid small towns.
That’s right, eschew those towns,
friend, those glomerations of eight
or nine hundred rubes named Dwayne, intact
in their dullness. Their collective aim: to arrive
at the local wienie-works on time—hair
greased, molars brushed, haunches walloping.
It’s true, of course, that your own walloping
windshield wipers could turn some of these towns
(for all their Wal-Marts and parking meters and Hair
Chalets) into vapor-lit versions of eight-
eenth century streetscapes. Especially if you arrive
under canopies of ancient elms, all intact.
And if a row of bungalows, equally intact,
happens to feature one lace curtain walloping
crazily in the night breeze, you might arrive
at certain conclusions about small towns.
You might even come within a hair
of staying for supper. Even if you just ate.
Maybe you find a chrome diner, circa 1958,
with pictures of Charlie Chaplin tacked
to the walls. A waitress with long copper hair
grins and takes your order: a walloping
plate of beans and ham, followed by the town’s
finest apple pie. Then the locals start to arrive:
Where’s your girl, Dwayne? You got a riv-
al, buddy? You just been eight-
balled? Well, here’s what the town’s
been saying—she ain’t what you call intact,
boy. Broad needs a good walloping
to keep her zipped up and out of your hair.
—Fade out. No diner, no copper hair, no small towns.
Only those walloping tires and the hum of your V-8.
Drive all night, friend. Arrive intact.