Woman Walking on the Road
We were in the car. We were heading home when Christian
with his wholly American name & manic chatter told his girlfriend
the woman we saw walking on the road with no umbrella
was a symbol of torment.We were in the backseat–
you with that face making the windows & the black world
beyond the windows beautiful, the roadside figure of a woman
in the rain beautiful & I knew later I’d be writing these lines,
caught in that space between personal & public:
a woman’s torment or symbol of it & our love & goddamn
everybody’s sins scribbled here for show. We were in the car
heading home when Christian said the woman on the road
was probably fresh from a fight with her husband,
but he didn’t say his fists gave his last girlfriend bruises
& I didn’t say it either… The woman was walking alone
on the shoulder & meant something different & utterly the same
to each of us– her lit up life & husband left looking
from a window, as I have looked from a window, guilty.
But Guilt ain’t nobody’s business. We were in the car, we saw
a woman walking on the road. There was a woman who,
after our quarrels, would steal my car, a little blue Datsun
with a dented fender. She’d drive from our dorm to the blank streets
of the town we lived in; she’d drive past the empty classrooms,
the soccer field, to God knows where & I wanted her, then,
away from me– two red lights, a tired engine leaving smoke.
But one night I groped in the darkness beneathe my hood
until I disconnected something & if there is such a thing as malice,
that was it– a man sabotaging his own car so his lover couldn’t run…
I’m shaking my head because I want to say I’m different now,
like Christian– someone with a new face beside him & a pain
no one can see, perhaps, settled in his chest. Your new face
beside me. I am damaged, I have bruised. We fought over something
stupid & she came so close I knew she could smell my blood.
Have I come far enough to say I hit her; to say my hand left a cloud
on her cheek? Have I come far enough to say, I’m sorry? We were
in the car, you with that face making the windows & the world
beyond the windows real; the figure of a woman on the road
telling the truth. Once in my small brutal past a woman left me,
walked from my lit up fingers to the street with a storm on her face.
It was raining. I watched from the window & could not follow,
my car sat in the lot disconnected, unopened, unmoved.
“Woman Walking on the Road” is from Muscular Music (Carnegie Mellon University Press 2005, Tia Chucha Press 1999).