Old Highway 78

by | Aug 4, 2015 | Poetry

Originally appeared in Union by Don Share, Eyewear Publishing, 2013.

Driving to Byhalia
on Old Highway 78, I gun my Sunbird
and a cardinal takes off like a shot.
Last night it rained and flooded,
and today there is a freeze; steam
rises ghostly from the Coldwater River.
Oil kicks up from the blacktop.
I veer down a gravelled,
rutted, off-the-map
county road, and skirt
past a blur of Nativity scenes,
one after the other,
that look like improbable cookouts.
This is a belt not of Bibles,
but subsistence farms
with propane tanks,
spray-painted nameboards, and leaning
silos of soybeans.
Down here the dogs
are in charge, and keep their snoots
level as the barrels of shotguns.
Meanwhile, vacant porch rockers
sway idly in the Gulf wind. Arrows
twist like the s’s in “Mississippi”
on successive road signs
which have been ignored, so the skidmarks
tell, except for target practice.
The afternoon is over,
and I haven’t seen a soul.
Yet good hearth-smoke
stealthily fills the iron-colored sky
and mixes with the clouds.
There is just now
the intransigent vapor
of what turns old plow points
to rust,
and even my wistfulness
is mist. But the earth I see
peripherally, as the Sunbird skims a shoulder,
will be turned up again in spring,
and these legible furrows, these cresting roads
will remain familiar,
arch, loop, and whirl,
like handwriting I remember.


Photo by Kristin Wall

About The Author

Don Share

Don Share is the editor of Poetry magazine. His most recent books are Wishbone (Black Sparrow, 2012), Union (Eyewear, 2013), and Bunting’s Persia (Flood Editions, 2012); he has also edited a critical edition of Bunting’s poems for Faber and Faber (forthcoming 2016). His translations of Miguel Hernández, awarded the Times Literary Supplement Translation Prize and Premio Valle Inclán, were published in a revised and expanded edition by New York Review Books (2013), and also appear in an edition from Bloodaxe Books (1997). His other books include Seneca in English (Penguin Classics, 1998), Squandermania (Salt, 2007), and The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of POETRY Magazine (University of Chicago Press, 2012), co-edited with Christian Wiman. His work at Poetry has been recognized with three National Magazine Awards for editorial excellence from the American Society of Magazine Editors, and a CLMP “Firecracker” Award for Best Poetry Magazine 2015. He received a VIDA “VIDO” Award in 2015 for his “contributions to American literature and literary community.”