When they cut down the trees on I-64,
I took it to mean the world was ending.
My life was a pocketful of apocalypses.
The first time I drove to college,
the laurel oaks and slippery elms whispered,
sacred and profane. In dreams,
the trees spoke of a sea past my mind.
In dreams, I listened.
For two years, I sat in the passenger seat.
Mom complaining (poor signage), dad listening (Bob Dylan),
or stranger-who-posted-on-facebook sitting silent.
My eyes smashed the window. I swallowed the trees.
Later, I had a silver CR-V and drove alone,
or sometimes ferried a stranger-who-posted-on-facebook.
That was when the trees ascended, leaving me
for their heavenly home. Yellow vehicles and orange cones:
Plastic and steel menaced. August in Virginia is heavy.
I bore it. The first time I drove myself, I stopped
at the only coffee shop between Richmond and Williamsburg.
It waited in a strip mall in Quinton like a punk who can’t get out.
Inside, a white mocha made by a white girl with a smile I recognized:
A missionary. On the wall, a creationist mural preaching biblical literalism.
Sometimes I was Catholic on those drives. Sometimes I was crazy.
Often, I was afraid. It was the last patch of road that took me
home. Home? Williamsburg is an open mouth, bloody gums
where teeth used to be. When they cut down the trees,
burial mounds of red dirt replaced them.
I imagined them shredded in a woodchipper.
I am never leaving Williamsburg. In this poem,
I am always driving east from Richmond.
The exit numbers are always climbing to 240.
In this poem, I am always heading east. This poem, a compass,
Williamsburg, the pole. I am always driving away from sunset and
it is always summer, always alone, the fruit always rotten.
Once, a stranger-who-posted-on-facebook sat in my passenger seat.
She grew silent, then pale, then lowered the window and threw up.
Two feet between us stretched as I watched the road ahead, unflinching.
I was alone. I was always alone. I thought my tire was flat.
No evidence suggested this. I thought my teeth were falling out,
and there were parasites chewing my intestines,
and I thought I would die before twenty-two. And
no evidence suggested any of this.
When she threw up and I felt no pity, no evidence
suggested that I could love another person.
I went back last spring because I do love another person.
On I-64, I remembered four years of moldy berries and bananas.
It’s easier to drive to Williamsburg now,
because there are more lanes. We are always praying for more lanes.
We pray to the creationist coffee shop.
We pray to always summer, always alone.
We pray to girls who vomit out windows
and make us feel nothing.
We pray to David Bowie, who is the reason we are alive,
and we pray to the ghosts of trees, because they know us best,
and they are all we count as holy.