We’re done with the Mexican olives, the cabbage palms and the chachalacas of Weslaco on the Mexican border, and now we’re heading east. The earth in south Texas is stripped and raw, red as blood, deep as sunset, bare as a wound. It is like skin clawed through to the flesh, sore and screaming hot and exposed to hot sun. The kindest thing about this primitive earth is the sweet acacia, the Texas ebony with its sweet spines, or the turk’s cap and its sweet monsanitas.
Later, passing the Houston night, no wind whistles. It’s just hot Houston chorus through cotton wisps. Only the furnace roar of I-10 blasting its steam over boggy Houston. Port yards and factories line up forever in the bluest collared city in the US. Somehow in the midst of this bisphenal graveyard is an incredible arrogance, that of a brand new subdivision gluesticked onto the interstate. From a half mile away you can see black smoke from a nearby industrial site choking out the air above it. It would seem that to build homes on industrial ruin is to admit that our waste has outrun our capacity for waste. Now we must learn to build efficiently on parched earth.
Across I-10 in Louisiana is the massive Atchafalaya Swamp and its 18-mile bridge at dawn. The crawdads, frog legs, catfish, alligator and shrimp on the side of the road are fresh and tempting, but there’s no stopping. Spanish moss hangs like ghosts from the massive old oaks that block the sun. It makes it easy to keep going.
Now we’re cutting eastward through the slash pines of coastal Mississippi and Alabama toward Conyers, GA. We awake to hard mornings, where the songbirds of the south lift us from reveries of the rougarou.
If you drive poleward in the southern states in the early morning, the fresh risen sunlight will strobe through the pines onto the road, striping the interstate gold and black. It’s a causeway of magic, interrupted only by interstate campaign signs that must be for state elections. I don’t know about you, but the longleaf pines are voting for Fields for Lieutenant Governor of Alabama.
Drivers, always moving, have no home, for they never settle. Whereas everyone else in America can fix themselves with tight knots to a community, truckers are knotless. They belong to no one and nowhere, except to the States as an amorphous whole, and to one another. Truckers’ families are other truckers. But even those faces are constantly changing. You never learn the name of another trucker. To a trucker, truckers are truckers and only truckers. In the end, the driver is alone in his wide country.
So for the time being,
As long as that may be,
Not knowing what to be,
I guess I’ll be a man.