by Mark Vogel
Over and over an endless story retold out past Topeka
in prairie wind, sand, and moving sky just like
in that over the top Kansas song, as six week old kittens
awake, and spill mewing from the depths
of back seat blankets, the last breathing
remnants of flickering Denver. Just me and them
rushing east for a long haul, straight on
to the not-so-bright lights of Kansas City.
Eighty miles gone and dark clouds shroud,
killing afternoon light. Then a cold Rockies
revenge wind shakes the car. Snow spits first
in Goodland, then blows in frightening gray
winter murk, the fat heavy flakes covering the lines.
Wild to get on, a Californian in a Lincoln rushes
from behind, crowding close, then fishtails
off the road, and I know then how much
I have underestimated—how lost I am
in white with bald tires, lonely heart racing pale,
pulling the car to the side, lurching onto the plain.
With the ignition cut, the snow blankets
windows, while behind me tumbling kittens
are awake, scrambling to stay warm.
Behind closed eyes, so soon comes the knock
on the window, an officer checking, then
saying go on, this is no place to stop,
followed by the limping metallic crawl back
on the highway, and the mumbling instinctual
explaining bleak danger to crying kittens,
then the slipping attempt to outrace the
grey inertia. So subtle the defrosting vision,
how moving alone alters chemistry,
so ten miles on in thick clogging cold air,
the radio sings loud the raw Kansas song
so sure, translated as wild and free strength—
necessary, though I could never sing along.