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.