George Wallace

I Drove West Because of You

i drove west because of you, and for you, heard your voice in moonlit miles, crossed the jesus-infested sky, caught hell at every six-gun speedtrap and felt envy smiling at every exit ramp; i tasted blood in a coffee cup in abilene and in nevada the six month rain never came, i slept like the damned, fouled in the yellow arroyo, and killed a horntoad with a wiper blade because i thought i heard it say your name;
and i drove west because dry dead riverbeds spring to life and dull horizons climb to heaven, and because the cascade of nebraska greengrasses is unyielding; i wept over you like embroidery, and wanted to love you, but could not; and wanted to understand you but could not; and wanted to rescue or replace you, but could not;

yellow prairie sun limp
over the statehouse dome,
your voice is like the little colorado
river carving a deep ditch deeper,
out of the flesh of the virgin;

your voice is cavernous, recalling crocodiles and thin-necked ibis, red seas parting;
and i wanted to redeem you, but could not;

on your lips the song of endless cattle,
in your palm, spit of ancient leather,

in my rear view mirror an unregulated militia of two-bit cowboys shooting their fool shotgun mouths off like washington politicians;

and i drove west because of you

and heard your voice in full wing, like larks; your voice quick as bullet trains kicking up wagon dust, your voice cheap as crimes and easy encroachments;

your voice a bone-thin man with one eye on the horizon and the other eye missing, hell bent on death, on survival, on oblivion;

your voice, wet boots trampling out the vintage across this intractable nation


George Wallace is a writer in residence at the Walt Whitman Birthplace, author of 37 chapbooks, and a regular performer on the NYC performance scene. Honored internationally for his poetry, he teaches at Pace University and is the editor of Poetrybay, Walt’s Corner, and co-editor of Great Weather for Media.