Because it was returning late
from its nighttime carouse
with alternator wire on its breath
or drunk with paddle varnish
or because its thicket of 30,000 quills
were bound to bother the Whitman dog
or because he was a god
to the three boys in back
and this is what gods did,
my uncle leapt out of the station wagon
grabbed a baseball bat from the back seat
and clubbed it into kingdom come.
“It coulda killed us all” he joked
and we laughed because no it couldn’t,
because he was the one with the baseball bat
and because on dirt roads,
scrawled across the skin of continents
where asphalt arteries always peter out
in dusty capillaries too far from the heart
to remember the things they carry,
civilization is what we say it is.
It’s what the rusted gate growled
every time we rode it closed.
It’s what the road itself howled
as Rte. 255 ran wild through the Clarion River Valley
before finally limping back,
porcupine quills in its foaming muzzle.