© Steve King
All rights reserved
We walked the road through twilight,
nightingales teasing from small shadows;
the emptiness ready for all bold spirits.
There were faint stars enough
to draw thoughts of a deeper night,
and of summer pleasures to be gathered at the fair.
As we rounded the last curve we passed the tree—
the grave and heavy circumference;
slowed our march,
The tree was a killer.
We saw, the week before,
the carcass of the ‘65 Corvette
as it was towed to town:
covered with a shroud of canvas,
hidden in the furthest corner of the salvage yard.
But we would see beneath it, and we did;
marveling with high amazement
at dark stains spilled across bucket seats
as if by some new miracle
of upholsterer’s art.
Marvel we did, but once,
joked just once,
timid laughs falling to a kind of sigh.
In our retelling to the less bold,
we spoke brazenly of gore,
as if we had become attuned
to that kind of death,
or to any kind;
spoke the way we thought
the others would best hear,
the way we thought a soldier
might have spoken of his battle ground;
or the way a cop might talk of routine carnage;
spoke of bits and pieces that were scattered in the car,
pieces not all metal or at all mechanical;
intoned at length on what the scattered pieces might have been.
The tree at dusk on a country road.
The tree had only done what a tree must do:
stood its ground,
age and dignity unshaken
by the race of passion or hubris
or even careless indifference.
And the car had only done what a car must do—
yielding to great stressors that were never meant to be.
The unknown couple, too, complied with due necessity:
shattering—not neatly, it was said,
unjoined, but not at logical places.
We counted out our steps,
knowing the roads intimately,
knowing steps and distances
from one place to the next.
Headlights marked us.
We might lose our number,
but there would always be,
away in the near distance,
hovering above the forest line,
the glow of the fair,
faint music growing stronger step by step;
and finally the great wheel,
alive with rainbow lights,
coursing a path skyward,
to yield it’s shining vessels to the night.
Talk soon overtook the nightingales,
and rapt imaginings
made bright the evening sky.
We moved in a strange kind of present
that held a dawning future in abeyance:
knowing we were doing all that we were meant to do
that summer, that night,
along that chosen road,
the summer sky a canopy
for all small charms so soon to be embraced…
I looked back.
Our road had left that tree behind,
just beyond the reach of the long curve,
lost in the tide of encroaching shadows.
The music louder now—
that eternal present soon set to pass
into the lightness
of a temporary balming dream
of many brief inviting moments
all at once just waiting…
Away from the shadows,
and the grasp of hard necessity;
away from subtle curves
that skew even much-traveled roads.
Then quick steps and laughter,
the pull of vesper gratitudes,
for what an evening might beget…
I prayed that I would one day
better care for a Corvette.