On a Desert Highway
The shaman wore long white sleeves rippling &
Minuscule in the bone-dry distance.
I jerked & righted the wheel
Plying invisible waves of hot sea
Always a moment just before the immediate future.
These warped slurs of air made of decades, centuries, a few
Seconds, who knows how speed/time/thermodynamics work when you’re
seated in air-
In my reverie, soon I forgot
I should have crashed into the first shining spirit hours before.
The mind itself a wobbly mirage on an endless road laid out before you.
Momentarily dozing at seventy-nine miles per hour,
A second shaman’s white
Sleeves fluttered far ahead in the headlights, this one
Scattering yellow tulips from a basket like cake frosting on the fillet of asphalt.
A third wearing red
Scallop shells of grief
Still favors my raw primary years in sleep—
Always asking hoarsely for a new face to wear to parties, church, shopping
Whatever age I am right now,
Whatever degree of luminosity
In a dream or memory I have not yet had,
Let me say:
I will always acknowledge & race toward your shipwrecked souls—
Far beyond the blood vessels behind my lids,
Past even those frightening cacti of a million cochleas,
Swooshed into that amniotic zone
Where once we all soared, naked & glowing.
Ten thousand gods in the fields midblossom.
Overhead screeches a finned metal giant slithering
Its fast shadow over concrete straight through us like a bar-code scanner.
Illumined on a checkpoint screen, I watch a
Winged fetus in ultrasound. But it’s only purple-
Striped socks, a hair dryer, six wallpaper samples.
Midmorning, daylight saving has a few confused.
Others smile or frown into the little black pools of their phones.
Palms and pink silk flowers along the moving concourse stand artificially
Midflight, dozing and dreaming, a pagan
Dance foregrounds a molten harvest moon
While evil trots a racehorse, combing its hair.
Antelopes plant plum trees with a hooked Bronze Age tool.
Come autumn, we won’t ever arrive at the lighthouse.
Of course, we do finally scrape ashore. All winter
A dense figure on a trampoline flashes gang signs
By the village’s bustling well. Near dead,
The fresh pulp of a far sawmill suddenly awakens my blind
Grandfather and four-year-old father,
Midforest, midblizzard. For a long time
After the plane lands and deboards
Nothing memorable happens.
“On a Desert Highway” and “Passages” are used by permission from Mitochondrial Night (Coffee House Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Ed Bok Lee.