A Wagon Fording a Stream
this month told of interesting road trips. Some were exciting, some less so.
Some involved conflict. Some created long-lasting memories. At least none of
the road-trippers in the poems had to ford a river, as did the cart driver in
the painting above! Most of us have it pretty easy when we take a road trip
compared to people 100 years ago. When Horatio Nelson Jackson made the first
known auto trip across the United States in 1903 (he went from San Francisco to New
York City), he actually used part of the Oregon Trail for a road. The trip included
a series of calamities that would have made a lesser person give up. You can
read a summary of his adventures at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatio_Nelson_Jackson. Or look for Ken Burns' documentary about the trip (see https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/horatios-drive/).
Jennifer Dotson of Highland Park Poetry fame (http://www.highlandparkpoetry.org/), served as judge this month. She selected three winning poems about road trips of “yesteryear” and three poems about more contemporary road trips. I hope you enjoy this selection of road trip poems – and feel inspired to write a road trip poem of your own if you haven’t done so.
First place went to Linda M. Crate.
the road trip to
was long, uncomfortable
but i remember more
than simply sticking to the
seats because we'd been riding
in the car so long--
we saw pronghorn antelope
and dad was aggravated that no one
heard their correct name,
my mother and little sister thought
he had said "foghorn" and i heard "longhorn"
and there was such contention and annoyance
for not hearing him correctly
so i just looked out the window
to avoid it--
watched as the antelope ran and leapt,
wishing i could disappear into the sands
~ linda m. crate
The judge says this poem “captures the long car trip misery and the dynamics of the family.” She enjoyed “the argument over the misheard pronghorn and how the animals express the poet’s longing for escape.”
Next, we can ride along to Delaware with Beverly M. Collins (second place).
Those Delaware Times
Streetlights and telephone poles
lined our journey down the New
Jersey Turnpike. A 3-hour ride that
Felt like an anticipation-eternity to 10-
year-old me. In the back seat with me were
my sisters and a cooler full of cold drinks.
On our way from Central New Jersey
to cousins, summer fun, night air speckled
with lighting bugs, the salt scented breezes,
and the ground sandy under our feet.
We rode the highway with the car windows open.
Wind blasted my face. At times, it was hard
to breathe. I closed my eyes and listened
to the music on the radio while a happy
feeling of “I-can-hardly-wait-to-get-there”
filled my stomach.
~ Beverly M. Collins
Dotson liked how “this poem exuberantly shares the joy and anticipation of road trip to visit family in Delaware. It sounds wonderful.”
Now we hit the road again, leaving Wisconsin with Marjorie Pagel in the third place poem.
Leaving Wisconsin and the farm chores behind,
all six of us crowded into the 1941 Ford sedan.
Dad driving, Mom and Vince upfront,
my sisters and me snugly fit in back.
Once a year we took the same family vacation
headed northwest to visit Minnesota relatives.
At La Crosse we climbed the giant iron swing bridge,
crossed the Mississippi. Peered out windows
to glimpse the river flowing far below.
We followed the river north to Winona, the cliffs
rising steep on the west. Spent a day or two
with Aunt Frances and Uncle Arden,
our cousins Dean, Elaine, Arlone. Then on
to Aunt Carol in Canton, Uncle Howard
on a farm near Harmony. I like the sound of all
those little towns: Mabel, Prosper, Lanesboro.
We’d spend five whole days visiting
aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Weren’t
any motels back then, no money for such
luxuries if there had been. But somehow
our Minnesota families always made room
for us to spend the night. Prepared
special meals in honor of our visit.
On Sunday, before we had to leave,
they held a huge picnic for everyone
who came to say goodbye, until next year.
Then the six of us piled into the family Ford,
traveled back across the Mississippi River –
back on country roads to our Wisconsin home.
~ Marjorie Pagel
The judge responded to this poem’s “nostalgia for a simpler time of driving to visit family back in Minnesota.”
Present Day Road Trips
Road trips come to an end, so Christy Schwan takes us home in the "present day" first place poem.
in my car with
audio books muffling road noise
wheels whir, ba-bump over
state after state floats by
invisible lines crossed
rolling hills yield to flatlands where
towering wind farms mar horizon
my mind cruises to its own rhythm
caught in hypnotic highway trance
oblivious to exit signs and rest stops
memories bounce into view
I lose track of where I am
toll booth cameras capture
my license plate
prove I was here
~ Christy Schwan
Dotson reported that she loves “the sounds and sights of this long drive,” and singled out the expression, “Tar-seamed bandages” as being fresh.
Interesting images and similes abound in Christian Ward’s poem about a road trip the speaker might want to forget, garnering second place.
From Las Vegas to San Diego
did not roam
like prowling mountain
lions on that road trip.
The sun, a light bulb
refusing to be turned off.
The curtain of sky
in cahoots, refusing
to be drawn back.
of asphalt, grey
like our arguments
over money or jobs
or housing. Joshua trees
tutting like a mother-in-law.
I inhaled my unhappiness
and looked towards
can only remember
a handful of places:
Cholesterol of LA
Route 66 burning me
the fries at Victorville.
I exhaled everything
at San Diego. Almost
caused a tidal wave.
~ Christian Ward
The judge characterized this as a ”miserable road trip where the environment reflects the interior energy of the people in the car arguing.” She especially liked “cholesterol of LA traffic” and the last verse.
The third-place poem was written by Bonnie Proudfoot, is a variation on the form called the ghazal, a form which originated in Arabic. You can find a definition of the ghazal and links to sample poems at https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/ghazal.
Glacier National Park (a ghazal)
The Welcome Center tells the history of native lands,
The Blackfeet say the 1895 treaty was a lease, not a confiscation.
Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai can no longer hunt inside the
no ceremonies on sacred peaks, rites are held on the reservation.
Information plaques mention that in 1850 there were 150
now 35 remain, by 2130 they may all disappear back into creation.
At the park entrance, in awe with other tourists in early
impossible to deny the elation with every geological formation.
It’s a tricky determination: is it winter snowpack or
Driving Going-To-The-Sun Road, we question every icy elevation.
On foot, we ascend along a narrow rocky trail, skirt a steep
scramble between fallen limbs, last winter’s devastation.
Snow melts above Avalanche Lake, streams cascade in 9
in a clear reflection, snowy peaks, but no closer to our destination.
Surrounded by mountains that keep their own counsel,
words of rock, water, and wind, spoken in the imagination.
We strain to hear the echo of a lost word, Glacier,
that all words have dissolved in our silent fascination.
What is silence? no beep, beep, beep of trucks backing,
no boogie-woogie ring-tones, no clatter of civilization.
Returning through 500-year-old cedars and ferns, a
as the mercury inches up, all tilts toward obliteration.
A last view, meadow of Beargrass, Indian Paintbrush, stoic
Sing, Northern Flicker, sing. Your voice is our consolation.
~ Bonnie Proudfoot
Jennifer Dotson said that this poem is a “nice use of form for this epic exploration of the park by car and by foot.” She liked the expression, “no clatter of civilization” and said that “the last line packs a punch.”
Congratulations to the six poems whose work was selected. They maintain copyright to their own work. Thank you to Jennifer Dodson for serving as the judge.
Sign back in on July 1 to see what the next Poetry Challenge will be.
Beverly M. Collins is author of the books, Quiet Observations: Diary thought, Whimsy and Rhyme and Mud in Magic. Her works appear in California Quarterly, Poetry Speaks! A year of Great Poems and Poets, The Hidden and the Divine Female Voices in Ireland, The Journal of Modern Poetry (Chicago), Spectrum, Peeking Cat Literary (London) Altadena Poetry Review, The Galway Review (Ireland), Verse of Silence (New Delhi), Merak Magazine (London), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), Wild Word Magazine (Berlin), The Readers and Writers Magazine (UK) Truth Serum Press/Bequem Publishing (Australia) and others. Winner of a 2019 Naji Naaman Literary Prize in Creativity (Lebanon). Collins is also a prize winner for the California State Poetry Society, twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and “short listed” for the Pangolin Review Poetry Prize (Mauritius). Her photography can be found on The Academy of the Heart and Mind, Fine Art America, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Wend Poetry, Spectrum, and others.
Linda M. Crate's poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has seven published chapbooks, A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press, 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon, 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, 2017), splintered with terror (Scars Publications, 2018), More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019), and the samurai (Yellow Arrowing Publishing, 2020); and two micro-chapbooks, Heaven Instead (Oragami Poems Project, 2018) and moon mother (Czykmate Books, 2018). She also has three full-length poetry collections, the latest being Mythology of My Bones (Cyberwit, 20200.
Jennifer Dotson is author of Late Night Talk Show Fantasy & Other Poems (Kelsay Books, 2020) and Clever Gretel (Chicago Poetry Press, 2013). A recent finalist in the 2021 Mary Blinn Poetry Contest, Jennifer's work has been published in After Hours, East on Central, Grand Little Things, and The Macguffin, among others. She is the creative engine behind www.HighlandParkPoetry.org, which she founded in 2007.
Marjorie Pagel is a retired teacher from Franklin, WI where she enjoys long walks, piano, reading, writing, and online classes. Her two books, The Romance of Anna Smith and other stories and Where I’m From: poems and stories, are available from Amazon and at discounted prices from the author. (Marjorie.Pagel@gmail.com)
Bonnie Proudfoot has had fiction and poetry published in the Gettysburg Review, Kestrel, Quarter After Eight and other journals. Her first novel, Goshen Road, was published by Swallow Press in January of 2020, and was selected by the Women’s National Book Association for one of its Great Group Reads for 2020. The novel was also long-listed for the PEN/ Hemingway award for debut fiction.
Christy Schwan is a native Hoosier, rock hound, wild berry picker, and wildflower seeker. She is pursuing her "encore" career as a poet/writer and lives in Wisconsin where she enjoys quiet sports; snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, and loon spotting.
Christian Ward is a UK-based writer who can be currently found in Shot Glass Journal, Asylum Magazine, One Hand Clapping, The Crank, Sein Und Werden and The Pangolin Review.
© Wilda Morris