Red Light District

by Tony Gruenewald

Spring brings
road crews
sprouting like dandelions
destined to entomb me
in traffic
and fill my senses
with the scent of
out-of-tune diesel
inducing me to dream
of red lights
and scream
as I discover
I can determine
the make and model
of every vehicle
deemed deserving of fossil fuel
during the last four decades
from the size and shape
of its tail lights
And I swear
that the arrow on the sign
that leads to the on-ramp
is the tip of the tail
of the devil
disguised in an orange safety vest
waving me through waves
of virgin asphalt steam
traffic flag in one hand
pitch fork in the other

Route 1 Free Association
(To the Guy in the Black Lincoln Riding My Bumper)

You'd think you were Neal Cassady
if you only knew who he was,
but you don't,
so you also don't know
you're just settling
for fancying yourself a
James Dean, who unlike Cassady
couldn't handle the speed.

Cassady himself misunderstood,
but at least appreciated,
be bop,
which, some would say,
puts him one step ahead of me
and, I'd like to presume,

But Dizzy Gillespie told Miles Davis,
that he, Davis,
didn't really get it either,
so once again,
Cassady was in
good company.

The mistake Cassady
and his beat boys made
was thinking those bop cats
hadn't planned
where they'd land
while they scaled
their musical slaloms,

which means
it would have had
everything in common
with this poem
if they were right,
which of course,
they weren't.

Personally, I prefer blues,
barbed wire raw,
as if the closest I'd been
to a plantation
wasn't the closely supervised
feeding, weeding and grooming
of my grandfather's ridiculously
green front lawn.

And, speaking of blues
and greens, that traffic light
just turned from green
to yellow and I pray
you're about to react
to my brake lights'
alarming red or
we'll both be singing
some serious

©2001 by Tony Gruenewald

Tony Gruenewald earns his keep as an Assistant Studio Director and Communications Coordinator for the New Jersey Unit of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. In previous lives he has worked in radio journalism and advertising and, if all else fails, still has his Teamsters card. His work has been seen in The New York Times, Caffeine, U.S. 1, Adbusters and other mostly defunct publications.

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