An Open Letter to Tom Waits
I almost found the American Dream-
discarded and abused as a crumpled pamphlet in the back pocket of my jeans.
But it went through the laundry with them
and the print ran and the Dream forever stained the ass of my best pair of 501s;
a birthmark in purplish-maroon running down the hamstring of my left leg.
I am sore in that spot, now, whenever I sit down.
But I wear those denim leggings frequently because I don’t want to buy a new pair.
These days, my spending is mostly devoted to tofu and Schlitz.
I want to drive across America again,
Like in early ’04.
Isolation hallucinations half the I-10,
a Texas wasteland,
imagining being a tiger clawing my way down the Highway,
lines in the median obscured by grasping and reaching arms and hands.
I ran out of road in Los Angeles
and realized I didn’t want the road to go in that direction anymore, anyway.
I wanted it to get lost in a cornfield on the other side of the Rocky Mountains.
Cornfields are the kind of contrived nature I can dig.
Not the transplanted plants of Hollywood,
the fingers and lungs stripped from a Samaritan cadaver in another latitude,
volunteering its organs to the greater good of a stranger city.
But the tissue barely matches-
the operation isn’t taking.
Palms may grow like vagrant urchins on the street sides,
but in the end it seems like the host is rejecting its harvest.
Give me a cornfield.
You can hear it grow.
When the I-85, I-80,
long view down the Nebraska bypass deposited me on the other side of an epic conquest,
I wanted an oak tree.
The Dream is a verdant plot lost in the
Industrial Yankee commune of
township city township Berkshire township Adirondack-
I’m a hitchhiker in my own car,
seeing how long I can take myself before I make it there.
Make it there?
I don’t care.
The lady at the diner planted in the mudflat looked at me like I was from Jupiter
because I asked her for a veggie burger.
It might as well have been a porterhouse
because it shared a grill with three generations worth of cattle consumption.
No lime in my Diet Coke
because there is no citrus in this longitude.
No room for my Dream,
a running dialogue with a mile marker,
playing telephone with the next mile marker a mile down the road,
holding hands with the Interstate like I am a toddler and she is my mother,
14 hours from before the sun comes up to when the stars are my blanket,
sleeping in another motel
nestled between a cargo hauler and an RV for a family of 6,
living their Dream over spring break.
We have to take a break in order to live and realize the Dream.
It’s buried under the asphalt,
submerged in a grease trap,
Lost in the back of the 24 hour countertop refuge,
glowing like a meek beacon from home that can be found anywhere we let the ketchup get under our fingernails,
and can reach into the napkin container
and realize each of those mighty pines looks the same in its final embodiment,
Everyone gets one.
Take some home when you revisit the doggie bag.
I don’t own a dog.
The building association doesn’t allow them.
I’m that vagrant palm tree,
like everyone else who’s seen one.
A head on a neck in the vast desert with the highway under my feet,
running with V-6 horsepower
and running out of books on tape-
so I came back to this place
because Milton and Arthur C. Clarke don’t remind of home.
Not the place where I was born type of home,
but the home that is everywhere the Dream can be revisited.
That is everywhere the Interstate goes and some places to the side of it
where I can sit with a coffee,
and muse about the Dream,
and leave an imprint
of it from running ink stain branding my back pocket,
the blotchy pamphlet dream whose
content was lost when I left it in the wash,
yet is immortalized every time I plant myself for a minute of contemplation.
Though I carry the Dream with me, I am always searching for it.
With Respect and Appreciation,