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John Nettles: Poems

1. Smoky Mountain Setback

Driving blind-curve Carolina pass
fast too fast, you know, and reckless but
darkness cuts travel time and you need
speed, coffee plucks your nervestrings,
sings in your eyes, you couldn’t go
slow if you tried, full moon at your back
jacks you up like bad memory driving

Broken glass diamonds on the road in
overloading headlight glare
flare into sudden screaming ganglia twitch
switch into reflex jerk on the wheel
realtime stretches and snaps back
smack across the eyes and you see
three bodies split and broken

Smoke from wreck of pickup overturned
burned collapsed, roof crushed, one slow tire
on fire, spinning stench of charred rubber out
doubtless bodies were passengers in the bed,
dead on the road, but where’s the driver?
survivor you hope, without looking at flattened cab
grab nose close eyes to blood brains and smoke

Clutch your gut stumble to the guardrail
frail barrier between road and falling gorge
gorge rising, shooting in burning-truck glow
so helpless, aware of a space between seconds
that reckons three (four) die and you live
give them one last tick of your time
climb into car quietly thrumming, pop the clutch

There but for the grace,
three-point turn,
tableau glow recedes,
full moon reclaims its place,
trembling foot hard on the petal,
resume driving.

2. Peter Boyle is Dead and Browsing

One night at the bookstore,
Peter Boyle the actor
came in, minding his own
business, browsing,
no fuss or fanfare, just
shopping, when one of the blue
vested employees recognized him,
walked up hesitantly, said,
“Aren’t you Peter Boyle,
the actor?” The actor
nodded and the blue vest
gaped, “I thought
you were dead.”

The vest had just read
in a movie magazine
that Peter Boyle
the actor had died. He
showed Boyle his death
notice, and the actor laughed
and bought ten copies.

To go browsing for books
and find out you’re
not dead.
Now that’s
customer service.


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