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Eric Elliot

Breakdown

Sunday, five hours north of Mississippi, my friend says Cop in a hushed voice.

Glance at the speedometer. Lose the needle somewhere past ninety. Shit I say. Shit, shit.

I turn the radio off and tap the break, nervous with a pill bottle in my pocket.

The cop merges onto the highway behind me, gets left, pulls up beside me

long enough for every god to battle in the thick sky following us home.

I imagine the lights animating the peaceful sky in the rearview as the cop flies past.

We are fine until the pinging. Let off the accelerator, the noise is gone

accelerate, it’s back. Then we’re on shoulder, hood up, oil tank empty.

Above, a jet slices the eastern sky, leaves a single white scar

thin as a year cut from the whole of time.

I wonder if the sky has ever confessed as much for so little ceremony—

two stranded travelers and a hungry dog begging to be walked.

There’s a Chevron at the next exit, I say—my voice someone else’s in the twilight.

Was it my voice all those years ago that split the pastor’s sermon on demon possession?

I stared at the cross until even the wooden Christ had life—

jut of the nail from wooden palms and ankles, painted blood, thorns big as my fingers.

I was too young to know about symbolism, stared in fear, like I stare at this dead car.

We start walking for the gas station. My friend asks if we’ll make it home on time.

I say we’ll try, expecting the flock of satanic angels from that old sermon

                                                  to carry us back up to the wounded sky.

We’ve gone four thousand miles in two weeks to break down half a day from home.

How many millions of years of light have we passed through on these highways?

What do we catch up with when get home at last—

a kingdom, a pit, a long and satisfying dream?

We’ll stop every hundred miles to oil an engine we know won’t make it.

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