Red Car in the Future

There are always impediments. When you
walk around touching things,
like very long surgery scars. Strange interactions
with animals. Music from the 1980s
comes back as music from 2011. You’re
in a red car in the future. It’s
a 1967 Mustang. Out the back window
it’s a field guide to cloud shapes
and clouds of the western region. I’m listening
to the radio as my thoughts
eat each other. We’re trapped. OK. But
what if we’re trapped in a wonderful place? The
demarcations along a rack of clothes
are the way you thrill me. How your clothes
don’t learn what’s wrong with this
picture. There’s a man falling from the sky. He’s
checking his wristwatch. Time seems to have
just started. It will take a while
to understand. One of these boxes
is labeled Happy Ending. One of these cars
was a fair trade. It’s mostly not ideas
or things. It’s mostly having a little problem
to get past. You wake up
in a car on the highway late at night
and you’re driving. The difficulty
of mile markers. Of what time it is. Since
we all seem to talk a lot about each other,
let me tell you a story. You’re in it. And it’s only there
if you don’t know it yet. How long have
any of us been driving? Where were we
headed? Teetering houses roll down
the window. The air on your face,
the way music is the destruction of music.

Or even the idea of red. Somewhere
we’re talking about you and your ears
are burning. Somewhere
there’s a sex party. They keep telling you
that. But they tell you so many
things. What it is doesn’t exist yet. (And
never will.) Still, we’re certain it will
be there. Imagine it turning the corner
of whatever street you lived on when you
were 17. Imagine yourself
driving because that’s what imagining
is for. You get to drive
and you get to watch yourself
driving. Later, you’ll sell it for a few
hundred dollars. The world shrinks
to fill us. We crowded on the ship
and the ship sank. “I have something
that I want to say,” we said, “but
I have no one I want to say it to.” Later,
the problem we end with is the problem
we began with. That’s how we know
we’re finished. That party with the mime
or the clown and lots of red wine
that we went to. Maybe if we
had stayed. Or we had checked
the balcony. As if sound were visible, the
figures indistinguishable from waves
teach us how to say what we’re saying.

Which is really anything you want. The way
you wanted so much for this
person, this woman or this man,
these people to go home with you. I know
how to act all the way home. These things
I believe. You’re taking a bath imagining
you’re taking a shower imagining
the door opens which will certainly be
a mistake but you want it so badly
to press up against the wall. You can hold
against the wall as there’s nothing
to do. There is nothing to be done
and you cannot react against it as a second
gesture or a third gesture. I’ll buy something.
I’ll buy a red car. I’ll drive through the
front of my house staring straight
forward. An hour must go by
that we cannot see. And then we say then
and now. There’s nothing here
that we’re interested in knowing. I’ve never
been lonely, nor have you. We stand
on the back porch saying afternoon
all afternoon. All afternoon it rains
across Missouri. How else would you call
yourself? We are busy, yes. We are busy.

Because sex is a type of car
we go driving. There is no magazine
that doesn’t say that. There is no
song or painting. And your bad dreams
agree. The feel of skin
agrees. What I mean to say
is that it’s always something other
than what I’m saying. The little joke
we keep to ourselves, toasting marshmallows
on our burning houses. Lighting cigarettes
with hundred dollar bills. Your new life
is calling you from somewhere
down the road. Why walk? Only fools
walk. Let’s go for a drive. But I
understand. We’re scared. There was this
red car, and we lived there, only we didn’t
have any shoes. The zeppelins? Oh yes, and now
we’re going to die [only I don’t want
to die (look! trees!]). I couldn’t
get my shit together. I go to the pool to watch my kids
and I keep watching the wrong
kids. Things get displaced. And why not
a red car in the future? And everyone
is talking about evasion
but when you know what you’re evading
every streetlight is a cancer scare. The young women
at the pool are fixing their tops
endlessly. The parking lot is full
of red cars as a form of sex. Red car after
red car. Things get replaced. A white pickup. These people
you love die and you love more people
or you don’t. They call it Complicated
Grief Disorder. Then you die. So, what if a car
fixes that? I saw all your friends today
out driving along the coast. They don’t want
to stay here and they don’t
want to go. Please don’t say “It’s whatever it is”
again. It’s not. Nothing stays
fixed. Nothing is going to be what it is
in the future. The car becomes this new
car. You have to look at it
without flinching. Which is easy. It’s
your Red Car Day. Easy times for dreamers.
There are trees all along
the coast and the best way is to always say
you’re one of them.

There’s always something left to find. But that
doesn’t mean you’ll find it. The car
is making a new noise. This
will cost you $500.00, and the noise
might become a form of light
over the water in Los Angeles, as each car
that pulls away presents itself
as one theory eats another theory. Fire
away, we say, lifting one car
to reveal another series of charms. Past this highway
there’s a highway, so that every time we say
“home,” we turn to bubbles
and drift off across a sunny yard
of new dandelions. There is this moment
we talk about
where the bubble contains
everything it doesn’t contain. As a smeared rainbow
it’ll cost you $5.99 US. I’m setting out
to join myself setting out. If I wanted someone
to thank me, I would learn
English. I would spend time
in Los Angeles. It’s the great hope
of sub-atomic particles. My first car
was 1983. Yes, you are this car
but it’s not red, it’s blue. This is part
of the problem. And we’re either driving it
or we’re in the backseat or we’re being run over
by it. All I want
is to watch the car go by, from a safe distance,
but apparently those seats
are reserved for the animals.

John Gallaher co-edits The Laurel Review. His most recent collections of poetry is Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, co-authored with G.C. Waldrep (BOA 2011).