“Beginning at five o’clock, just before dawn rises
in the rear-view mirror, I drive at eighty, alone,
all day through Texas. I am a pencil extending
a ruler’s line to the unchangeable horizon
west as I repeat a thousand quarrels with my wives.
My grip on the steering wheel slackens; my mind’s voice turns
mild and persuasive, quietly addressing the young
doctor at the detox center . . . But I cannot stop
hearing again, word-for-word, last winter’s two o’clock
call from a motel in Albany—she would not say
where she was —as my daughter wept, sighed, begged forgiveness,
and allowed the telephone to drop from her fingers.
When I have driven straight through daylight, five-foot neon
letters rise crimson in tbe pale west: BAR. Thirty years
drown: I am a young man again driving with Felix
from New Haven to San Diego where he will join
his Crusader and his carrier, and in two months
overshoot the runway and slide to the Pacific’s
silt bottom without jettisoning his canopy,
while a helicopter hovers an hour above him.
For a moment Felix sits alongside me again,
a young man forever, with his skin wrinkled and puffed
from thirty years of soaking in his watery chair:
All day we drove west on a ruled highway: at a BAR
we swallowed two pitchers, and hack on the road again
I pulled out to pass a tractor-trailer. Another
approached and neither truck would give way; I labored past
the semi inch-by-inch and at the last half-second
sideslipped in front. As our pulses slowed we stared ahead,
and from the slipcovered seat beside me Felix spoke:
‘The time that we lose hy stopping to drink we make up
by drunken driving.’ Continuing straight west I dream
of my lucky friend Felix the singlewing halfback.”