Childhood and the road,
we were packed inside a long blue Chevy,
driving North on the highways of 1967,
We counted chimneys, cows, red barns…tombstones,
chirping and chanting “See See See Rock City”.
The smell of Lucky Tiger hair tonic, peach moonshine,
and Winston cigarettes coming in off the giant
manipulating the steering wheel. Red headed, laughing,
he was Daddy, yeah Daddy…and he was big,
6 foot 4, two hundred and thirty pounds of smiles.
The one Mother spoke of caverns, of mountains, of gnomes
and what we’d see…we’d See Rock City.
There we walked across the gorge
on a wobbly, steel and wood suspension bridge.
Rode a cold elevator down, down past the painted
stone gnomes and dark rainbows of rock and coal.
Stalagmites and stalactites, big room and a lecture.
I drank hot tea for the first time, with milk.
She frowned and said it was very ‘British’.
Later, battle grounds and Brownie photographs
of Mother and Sister on a canon. All grins and waves.
Back through the Smokies, white fog and green hills.
Home through Chattanooga, home to Tucker,
home through the young Atlanta Mother helped rebuild,
to our ancient turf where the family was born
as Finn in the time of Ogelthorpe,
and it was all innocence and romance,
the whole world of my South was bright
innocence and romance, gothic and legendary.
Later, seeped with mysteries of the American tragic,
my home, my family, my milk and honey…
well, it was washed in the truths of alcohol and divorce,
but when I want to sing and laugh,
when I want to remember, to grasp and cherish,
there is one scene I memorialize:
See See See Rock City,
and the beauty gives itself over to today: See….See…See…
She stared me down
and mapped cities around
my cheeks and eyes,
trying figure out how old
I was. Thinking I must
be older than I am,
she didn’t understand
the truth of skin and sun,
of smile lines and laughter,
of how sadness too
draws its history
in creased figures on even lips,
and I feel embarrassed,
I wish I had Prince Charming skin,
always smooth, always reflecting,
but I don’t, I wear my life
and can’t hide a thing,
not even the moments
of fear and desire,
of summer days and winter lights,
the times I smoked,
drank, burned every candle
for a hundred miles,
of the tears for death, for birth,
and then more for love and kindness,
all there, just there,
giving more than I deserve,
showing wisdom and time
on a soul that’s much too young,
but it’s enough, she just stares
and wonders and decides
I’m must be old, just an artifact,
and says bye bye.
Yeah, a coyote artifact.
Set loose again upon the hills.