by Tom Meyer

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.

Tom Meyer is a retired editorial cartoonist for the San Francisco Chronicle and many other newspapers in California. He moved to Asheville with his wife in 2018 to be closer to family and has relished mountain life with its seasons, bears, and fireflies (synchronous and not). When not exploring nearby trails with their two Clumber Spaniels, he enjoys Tourists games, tending their meadow, and reading and writing poetry.