William Gay’s Poetics

He drove the dark highways with the radio tuned to a country music station, he felt himself drowning, inured in woes in a most phantasmagoric landscape of lost love and betrayal until these folk became real to him, he one with them. Ultimately the night and the beer and the trusting black road and the music seemed to alter his very consciousness, making him a character in this single unending epic song that came to seem not to be a song at all but some folk stories whispered and told him by a vast and infinitely crowded cast of folk who moved irrevocably toward infidelity with masochistic glee and a dread and near mythic inevitability.

West Texas, night. A moon tracking high above him rendered the silver landscape cold and surreal. He stopped and cut the lights, the switch. Silence descended and he got out into it. The desert looked timeless. Save the dark highway beseeching it this could be the desert of ten thousand years ago or of some vague and unchartered future. He turned. The truck looked anomolaic, Fortean. Above him the dark bowl of the night sky was shot with pinholes of light. He urinated and lit a cigarette. The horizon where the highway and sky met tugged him gently as if bound to him by a webbing of an invisible wire and he got back into the truck and drove on.
Sometime after a while in the night he passed an enormous junkyard of wrecked cars. They lay crumpled and broken each in its allotted space. Splintered and glassless and bent as if dropped. Half asleep or hypnotized by the road coming at him as if from some inconceivable height there seemed something sinister about them, these useless discarded cartons death had come in.

Old men would come out that year at night and stare at the sky as if some sign might flare there briefly: stood out in the hazy blue dusk while fireflies moved like a spirit lights among the dark boles of trees and heat lightning flared and died, faint mocking thunder came tumbling roll on roll down the well of the sky. They listened to the sounds of the night as if encoded in the cries of insects might lurk some secret knowledge of the earth’s complexities, surely creatures of the night dwelt deeper in God’s favor than they. Sometimes along toward dawn clouds might form and offer surcease. Then the sun would rise over the jagged trees orange and malefic and its heat would fall like a weight. What clouds had formed would dissipate into faint wisps the sun burned away and ultimately the sky would be marvelously clear, a hot mocking blue.

He entered the outside. The night was clearing and there were patches of sky almost silver. Frogs called from some near pond, nightbirds took up the chorus. Whippoorwills from some deep hollow. He walked through the rubble, momentarily lost from the way he had come. The moon came partway out, Rorschach shards of clouds stringing over it medusalike, in the keep of some high wind unimaginable.

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