Thursday, October 18, 2012

Poem 21 - In a U-Haul North of Damascus

Here’s a poem about pain and the possibility of redemption. On the road to Damascus, of course, is where the persecutor of Christians, Saul, was blinded, given a faith in Christ, and rose redeemed as Paul, the pillar of the first church. Damascus, here, refers to Damascus, Georgia, population 254, the place where our poet (or his character) ponders the chance of a new beginning.

In a U-Haul North of Damascus
David Bottoms


Lord, what are the sins
I have tried to leave behind me? The bad checks,
the workless days, the scotch bottles thrown across the
and into the woods, the cruelty of silence,
the cruelty of lies, the jealousy,
the indifference?

What are those on the scale of sin
or failure
that they should follow me through the streets of
the moon-streaked fields between Benevolence
and Cuthbert where dwarfed cotton sparkles like pearls
on the shoulders of the road. What are these
that they should find me half-lost,
sick and sleepless
behind the wheel of this U-Haul truck parked in a field
                on Georgia 45
a few miles north of Damascus,
some makeshift rest stop for eighteen wheelers
where the long white arms of oaks slap across the trailers
and headlights glare all night through a wall of pines?

What was I thinking, Lord?
That for once I’d be in the driver’s seat, a firm grip on

So the jon boat muscled up the ramp,
the Johnson outboard, the bent frame of the wrecked
chained for so long to the back fence,
the scarred desk, the bookcases and books,
the mattress and box springs,
a broken turntable, a Pioneer amp, a pair
of three-way speakers, everything mine
I intended to keep. Everything else abandon.
But on the road from one state
to another, what is left behind nags back through
a last word rising to a scream, a salad bowl
shattering against a kitchen cabinet, china barbs
spiking my heal, blood trailed across the cream linoleum
like the bedsheet that morning long ago
just before I watched the future miscarried.

Jesus, could the irony be
that suffering forms a stronger bond than love?

Now the sun
streaks the windshield with yellow and orange, heavy
of light drawing highways in the dew-cover.
I roll down the window and breathe the pine-air,
the after-scent of rain, and the far-off smell
of asphalt and diesel fumes.

But mostly pine and rain
as though the world really could be clean again.

Somewhere behind me,
miles behind me on a two-lane that streaks across
west Georgia, light is falling
through the windows of my half-empty house.
Lord, why am I thinking about this? And why should I
so long after everything has fallen
to pain that the woman sleeping there should be sleeping
Could I be just another sinner who needs to be blinded
before I can see? Lord, is it possible to fall
toward grace? Could I be moved
to believe in new beginnings? Could I be moved?

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