ROBBIE FRAZER: 192 miles with Carla

I put my signboard in the back seat
and we tacked through the fleet of trucks
in the parking lot and onto the
hot open road. She looked dry.

Where you goin’?, she’d asked;
lips and beef jerky: I’m Carla!
Her jaw, blade straight, softened in powder,
her earrings swinging, one-handed.

Her face was smooth and pale, no hair;
her colours borrowed from elsewhere,
she smelled of meat and sweet freesias.
Pleased to meet ya, she said,

her voice crunching under the wheels.
You looked like you need a ride and I
need to hide myself from sleep you see.
She drove in bare feet.

Hon, get me a cigarette? She pointed;
I rummaged around and found a penis in a jar…
Oh right, she said, that’s weird, I know,
but that’s the worst I have to show you.

Whose is it, I asked – It used to be mine, she said.
It’s in a jar, I said – I had nowhere else to put it…
In twilit silence we slid northwest.
The sun was the colour of a two-bar heater,

switched off and still warm. Taking me back to
distant days huddled in layers
of endless tea and jazz in my fuggy room.
The window’s gap sucked on her cigarette,

licking it clean of ash, blushing the tip.
She smoked like she knew what she was about.
The hairs on her left arm were vermillion,
soon to be lost to the door’s shadow.

She treated her hair like a sleepy toddler
slung this way and that, stroked and tolerated
but her eyes, hazel?, were made for the haze
of a long, long road. She seemed to have no edges.

I’m throwing it from the Golden Gate, she said.
I rested my hand on her shoulder,
the strap of her top under my fingers,
we drove into orange darkness.

I treasure this poem because it reminds me of all the weird people who have given me a lift at various times in various different countries. Many of them were lovable and doing me a kindness. Some of them not so much. But Carla – how I would have loved to accompany her on that ride! (Perhaps only in America …)

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