Benjamin Vogt



I'm chained to Chevrolets, rusted trucks,
the sound of things along the highway, pitched
revolver cries of mufflers sputtering death.
Beside the shoulder, melting into weedy dirt,
are half-blown tires, shards of glass and bolts
that angered business men and flew like gods.
Each morning I drive more slowly, right lane
the impenetrable fortress moving, seen
in instants by passing Mustangs, near-colliding
Impalas. Somewhere parts are shaking loose,
the fibrous man-made whole will give itself
to errant twists, desire poured from impulse
of arms and legs, desire to go now, that
all going must be now—that all becoming
is linked to losing bits of self by noon.



Are the trees and the interstates
among them? Jet planes in erratic
white cumulonimbus? Dandelions
in cracks of city sidewalks?

And you ask day after day what
these things mean, if black is not
really white, if it can ever be,
if lack is really intense fulfillment

and we—so focused on the shallow
pool of our language—just don't
recognize this joy. If you could
touch me right now, would you?

What if your body evacuated
into mine like a levee spilled
on the town? The difference
between reclamation and possession

is inundation. And you ask
if this is good or bad and I say
irony is sublime and leads
to transcendence. And you muse

on the spider behind your shades
that won't come out, your can
of poison ready to spill upon its
body, then scream and back away

once it reveals itself leg by leg—
its shadow more mercurial than desire.



Flat Tire: We take elements from the land and form them into man's image and purpose, violently use them, then toss them back and leave it up to nature to re-assimilate. That tossing off is as much a physical pollution as it is psychological—we believe loss is our birthright and gives us reason to go on creating and managing existence in order to make up for the lack we cause. We value nature's loss because it gives us the artificial dominance of nostalgia—that's why we give our cars animalistic names.

Compatible: I wrote a paper recently on irony as necessary for the sublime, and the sublime necessary for transcendence. Humans have a unique capacity to hold two opposites together simultaneously in the mind (if however briefly), and allow that repulsion to become an intense attraction propelling ideas and emotions infinitely further. The result can be faith, realization of love, the end of writer's block, or a scientific breakthrough. My epiphany of sublime transcendence came when my girlfriend couldn't kill a spider.