Mother Road The old route an impacted wisdom tooth
buried beneath new interstates, a road
of lost teeth, the sly grin between Chicago and LA
haunted by the clinks of chipped coffee cups,
rusted out Chevys, the dust mouth of a day
without water, a pickup’s black hot engine
coughing to reach the summit, diesel, burger
and human sweat soaked into her pavement.
Grandma Joad’s unmarked grave just outside
Newberry Springs. The Mother Road cut
her molars 75 years ago. Now her saucer
of teeth frowns on the countertop. Criminy,
if the day weren’t blown-dry hot and the miles
stretched in only one direction, maybe
we’d “find the time holy.” This zigzag trail
of American Dream now a busted up bridge
over the Colorado River, a town of withered
gas stations and a boarded up motor court.
Still the old route sings a ditty the new highway
tries to muffle till some old snoop straps her ear
to the asphalt, taps out the beat and plants
the requisite arrows pointing from the salvage yard
in Towanda, IL where we bury our dead to Homer,
CA, the city of none, on her knees for a zip code.
Route 66 rolls her tongue further and further west,
beds her kickstand at the Pacific’s pursed lips.
Stephanie Hemphill
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