County 19

I twist in my seat beside the woman who picked me up 

on County 19, reaching back to help her son 

eat his Happy Meal. I fly a french fry through the air,

thinking how weird it is to hitch a ride on the road 

I’ve driven so many times with my dad––

the route between our house and the old folks home 

where Grandma lasted alone for fourteen years. 

Each time we visited: the veins wider, bluer, 

the ankles thinner, the distances between bedsores 

diminished, the cheer my dad convinced himself to feel 

as he repeated the litany: I am your son. 

This is your grandson. We’re so happy to see you.

The woman asks me where I’m going 

and I say as far as you can take me,

but as we pass the old folks home I tell her to pull over. 

The boy is finished with his Happy Meal and now 

he points at the bruise on his elbow and says Ouch.

His mom nods at him in the rearview as I get out. 

That’s right, she says. Ouch. There is the low roofline,

the sign with a bible quote in changeable letters,

my grandma’s old window as blank as it was 

when she lived here, some earth dug up 

in the bordering cornfield for construction 

of a new wing. I think about barging through the doors 

and demanding to see Elizabeth Wee, making 

some kind of scene. I think about setting up camp 

in the hole in the cornfield and refusing to leave. 

But instead I wander the grounds for awhile. 

I lie in the parking lot’s grass island and watch 

the cornstalks feather the road with lank shadows, 

the sunlight dipping down into the tassels. 

I want speed. I want new people. To ditch 

this slow sanitary drain of golden light, 

my pastor parents and their immovable faith, 

this town’s brown river exhausting its banks. 

Elizabeth is underground. So is my cousin. 

Stones like polished teeth in the family plot. 

In the twilight I walk back to the shoulder 

and catch a ride from a farmer hauling a trailer 

stacked with hay bales three-high. When he asks me 

where I’m going I say as far as you can take me.

Reprinted from The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee. Copyright (c) 2019 by Anders Carlson-Wee. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Anders Carlson-Wee

Anders Carlson-Wee is the author of THE LOW PASSIONS (W.W. Norton, 2019), a New York Public Library Book Group Selection, and DYNAMITE (Bull City Press, 2015), winner of the Frost Place Chapbook Prize. His work has appeared in The Paris Review, BuzzFeed, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, The Sun, New England Review, The Southern Review, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and many other publications. The recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Poets & Writers, Bread Loaf, Sewanee, and the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, he is the winner of the 2017 Poetry International Prize. His work has been translated into Chinese. Anders holds an MFA from Vanderbilt University and is represented by Massie & McQuilkin Literary Agents.

NOVUS Literary and Arts Journal
Lebanon, TN