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OUT THERE
 by, Bill Tolliver

I have many faces, many voices.
I am the Rider,
Rushing toward you down the long slope of the wind.
I come with chrome - flash and thunder;
With dirty face, goggled eyes, dust caked sneer.
I come in summer daylight with the steel hammer of sun.
I come with a black whisper in the middle of the night.
I am the Rider.
 
Far away you see me --
A dust storm growing, multiplying infinitely in size,
Suddenly looming huge before you,
Hunched over the handlebars,
Gloved hands clawed to the controls,
Helmeted, leather skinned,
Dragon man issuing fire and smoke
Like all the devils in Dante's hell...
 
As suddenly gone, shrinking, Doppler Effect fading into silence
Leaving you shaken, nerve-jangled,
Long after I am gone --
Roadside weeds tremble at the memory of my passing.
 
I am the Rider, and I am bound for Out There.
Moving to the machine in summer morning stillness,
Half a ton of steel and incredible power,
Waiting silent for the touch of my hands,
Waiting for my fingers to pluck the harp-strings
That call forth its fierce and terrible music.
 
Starting in thunder and fire,
Shattering dognaping neighborhood quiet,
Waking of children and roosters,
Moving.
 
Creature of the wind,
Brother of the sun.
I will not be quite human again until it is over.
Rolling hills, stone bluffs, valleys spread and change before me.
Sunlight cymbal-crashes on my helmet.
I laugh.
 
Down into a little town,
Through mazes of hollows and ferny glens,
Circled spokes flash silver webs in sunlight,
Children stop their play to stare,
Ancient hound lifts gray muzzle from gas-station dust,
Sniffs the wind, dozes again,
Nose on crossed paws.
Through the town, up the hill, poking a hole in the wind...
I feel the changing surface of America beneath my wheels,
Feel the good land my ancestors knew,
The land that is still there if you know where to look.
 
The wind is mine; the land is mine.
I am all alone now.
I snap the throttle open. The machine leaps forward,
A loosed dog going for the throat...
Sudden engine-snarl picked up and pushed back by the wind.
The world blurs, reality slips and shifts.
Shapes melt and flow into one another.
No longer a sighing golden thing, the wind takes on shape and mass.
It has teeth and claws.
Tears stream from my eyes and dry in salty rivulets on my face.
My shirt fills with air, billows, pops a button.
 
Here the strange wild music starts.
No words can tell of it; no two of us hear the same song.
You have been Out There, or you have not.
A second becomes a year. A minute, an eon.
Shapes, sounds colors, flick past, unrecognizable, gone before they can be named.
 
Down the long straight away hill, the bars living things in my hands,
A tight curve at the bottom.
Mufflers pop like pistol fire,
Strike sparks from pavement as I lean into the curve,
Creeping at eighty-five.
 
Slowing. I shake as awareness and reason come back.
I stop beside the road, still dazed from speed.
My skin tingles from wind-friction.
I smell the good smells -- roadside weeds, hot oil, friction, hot-
   steel cooling with slow intermittent ticks......
 
I grin and wave as the racketing Detroit iron rushes by me,
Knowing those inside,
Sucking at the metal breath of the air conditioners,
Are pitying me.
How can I tell them it is I who pity them?
 
I know something they will never know.
I have been Out There
And come back again...
I am the Rider.

Submitted by a friend with permission of the poet Cara Nolen <toadewart@yahoo.com>
 

 

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