Natalie wanted to watch NASCAR
I said Hold up not my thing
we were on the attic floor
cleaning up Gel Markers and Monopoly houses
Come on dad don’t go to the basketball
the Cavs were playing the Pacers
and Lebron was doing wizard shit
but Natalie wanted Talladega
so I let it go
and there were fighter jets flying over the race track
and Kyle Busch had his neck in sweats
the National Anthem stung like a dinosaur tooth in the thigh
she wanted to watch a perfect blue sky drip into a big green engine
and the green infield with Budweiser Tall Boys
all those good ol’ looking lads
Davey Allison and Joey Logano
it’s an America we don’t know
but maybe we should
maybe all of us Pete Seeger northern liberals
need to get down to Alabama on a hot Sunday in late April
embrace the Bible and crocodile boots
to see how it feels,
how it feigns to be a bit more to the right,
I’m just saying to be on the other side of the infield
to be closer to what we don’t know than ever before,
to pour wiper fluid into beer mugs with strange bedfellows
and get smashed drunk on piston grease
so our tires get bigger
hug the tarmac tighter
I know it was the fast cars and sleek women that had Natalie
feeling the NASCAR wizard magic
and you could smell the oil and gasoline
on the camera glass when Jimmie Johnson’s vehicle
slid into William Byron on turn 3 that started a 14 car smash up
she liked that
we all like that
especially when no one gets hurt


It’s enough to sit down in the middle of the street,
the garbage trucks picking up trash,
the school buses stopping and starting,
the dirty rain falling from the neon clouds;

it’s enough to make you collapse in the middle of a speech you are giving on human rights
or animal rights
or the right of the earth to be as clean as it was 10,000 years ago;
enough to make you put down the pen, the gavel, the scalpel,
the international phone call,
and get on a bike and bike, hard,
to your child’s school, walk into her classroom,
and hold her tight
without apologizing to the teacher for your interruption;

it’s enough to toss the phone into the river, the computer into the lava pit,
turn to the person next to you
and offer them your hand, eye, maybe even a lung.

I’m saying I’m tired. We are all tired.

All around everyone is doing the best that they can do.
He makes the best pot roast,
she crafts the tallest building
the bagel people whip up the best bagels,
the lovers love,
the students write the smartest papers on governmental corruption
as humanly possible and still, still, still,

there is someone outside the room with a back hoe
filled with battered Clorox bottles,
steel-tipped bullets, and vice grips ready to tear apart hearts.

It’s enough to take your feelings and slide them in a towel,
all of your feelings, all of your human and animal feelings,
and jam them into a towel,
all of your decency and rage and joy and bullshit and horror and excitement,
walk out into the street and into the mountain, the cave and the field,
and wrap up any live thing you can find in that soft cloth,
the whole world of live things,
to turn back that back hoe,
to push it back into some place in the imagination
that won’t even let us imagine it anymore.


Matthew Lippman
Latest posts by Matthew Lippman (see all)