The Writer’s Garret – How the Road Saved Us—September 2001

The Writer’s Garret – How the Road Saved Us—September 2001

By Christine Swanberg, Author and Poet

Ten days after watching, seared

by pyrotechnical horror of the Twin Towers’ spines,

each vertebrae sliding down like dominoes,

the surreal crematory of the American dream—

we finally yank ourselves away

from that black hole we’ve been sucked into,

finally say together, “No TV today.

Let’s take a ride.” Let’s escape.

Yes, let’s escape.

Let’s go into the womb of the old Porsche

we’ve named Ice-Blue Cool

for its rare glaze, soft as a jazz rift

blown by Sonny Rollins on a good day.

It’s cold but sunny in the Midwest.

A crisp September morning.

Whir of sunroof, chirp of radar detector

a few vintage cassettes, and we agree:

“No radio. No news today.”

No news. Just Highway 81.

Just Green County, Wisconsin, past Monroe

where we buy brown, 9-grain bread,

a few peaches and plums,

a tiny pumpkin from the farmer’s market,

the air still ripe with harvest.

We eat a Swiss cheese sandwich

at Baumgartner’s, where the old proprietor

seems dazed, mistake-laden,

confusing orders left and right.

Business as usual. But not quite.

We’re headed to New Glarus

but get to Argyle instead, a tiny town

with a wheat-colored clapboard hotel,

old wooden stairs entangled with late blooming

rose climbers, renegade sweet pea,

a gaggle of weeds, and old farm wives

eating slices of pie with cheddar cheese

or vanilla ice-cream. Old farm wives

talking of arthritis and medication.

We take a pee

and head down County C,

knowing we’ve somehow lost our way,

going in some obelisk direction,

the way I remember D.C., its street names

sometimes changing at rush hour.

We’ve lost our way

but there’s beauty all around us:

red and white Wisconsin barns,

shutters and stone foundations a century old,

sumac turning soft crimson,

a few pumpkin-colored maples,

purp1e phlox and goldenrod,

prairie grass and cat tails.

Now and then a hawk perches on a fence or telephone wire,

a monarch makes it across the road,

skunk smell taints the clover.

The hay, round bales like large bread loaves,

grace the Kettle Morraine, here

on the road, the road that saves us, here

in Green County, Wisconsin, where

it is still possible to say: Bread Basket of the World,

still possible to know how large the land is,

its quaint bills and silos beckoning,

a prayer in fifth gear edging ’round the sweeper.

—Christine Swanberg

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