The Writers Garret – How the Road Saved UsSeptember 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 weve been sucked into,
finally say together, No TV today.
Lets take a ride. Lets escape.
Yes, lets escape.
Lets go into the womb of the old Porsche
weve named Ice-Blue Cool
for its rare glaze, soft as a jazz rift
blown by Sonny Rollins on a good day.
Its 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 farmers market,
the air still ripe with harvest.
We eat a Swiss cheese sandwich
at Baumgartners, where the old proprietor
seems dazed, mistake-laden,
confusing orders left and right.
Business as usual. But not quite.
Were 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 weve somehow lost our way,
going in some obelisk direction,
the way I remember D.C., its street names
sometimes changing at rush hour.
Weve lost our way
but theres 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.