A Road is Just a Trail Made Dangerous Through Improvement & Sunshine

by Crawdad Nelson


A Road is Just a Trail Made Dangerous Through Improvement

The strip joint sits on a low rise
about a mile away

from the useless but ominous cone,
from the piles cooling,
gradually, a thousand years at a time,
lethal rods bathed in clear pools,
men keeping the eternal valve open
smoking only where allowed,
preventing disaster,

looking across mud and waters,
near whizzing highway. Enormous trucks
howl off to appointments, head toward unknown scales,
unpredictable ordinances, secret restrictions,

while the strippers give it all, sometimes
pleasantly authentic, almost real,
pretending to care about the truckers
drinking watery beer in the front row,
the mill hands looking so deep
they see themselves,
bare skin, big hair,
thighs on the pole, high heels,
wobbling a bit,
showing, but not showing,

when someone stops in
two and a half days later, explicitly pale
and emaciated, all there is after the money
is lost is the way it feels in your hand,
you can always tell,
once the road is traveled,
the highway crossed,
it is clear:

A road is just a trail the governor discovered
on a map and drew lines over
until it was gone, until engineers had
measured and figured the precise amount of earth
and degree of difficulty; it started out safe,
in the morning with a packed lunch going fishing,
but got worse with time: someone dug in, hardened,
and simplified the hill itself, a long curve now
cuts it in half, and the trees at the bottom are scarred
after decades of intercepting lives,
providing closure, closing deals.

A road is a place you can’t walk;
you’ll get run down;
someone will chuck a half-full beer at your head
from a moving automobile,
someone won’t see you,
someone will plow into the shoulder at seventy
miles an hour and destroy a hundred yards
of white picket fence hung
with nasturtium; you can’t relax,
you may have to suddenly leap
into wild tangled weeds and vines,
beer cans and cinder block fragments,
granite, glass, toxicity
squalor and risky behavior
cuddled in roadside weeds;

a road is just a trail
with safety removed, a tunnel through timber,
surface upon muck, flat spot, wide spot,
spot with nothing left to give, a dangerous ribbon of
pressed layers, of death underfoot,
anonymous and pointless.

Three days later they pass once more,
hundred miles an hour,
middle of the road.


The sun rises and falls over the continuous moment; the moon rolls through the sky and plunges into the sea just after breakfast each day, the size of a gull’s egg, on a secret nest; the sky reveals its broken wings, a stroke of light across the infinite, a stone in the sea; the bones of the pioneer dead lie gathered and counted. Most of what occurs is a kind of mud capturing the repetitive tasks of life. Let’s see if you can figure this one out. Someone with a knife is at the door. Go on down to the personnel office and ask the right questions. After a few drinks people soften into slightly less intimidating postures and the tobacco smell darkens. We sit there alone staring at each other. Standing in line to eat. Standing in line to take a shit. Standing in line at the gate. The door swings. The door swings inward. You go in. The sun comes over the ridge and punctures the soft moon, lying invalid on the water, the sun rises to an unlikely height, the moon is a soft white blossom.


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Crawdad Nelson has published poems, stories, essays and articles in the small press for over twenty years. He has been editor, pasteup man and photographer as well. He currently works at a community college helping people understand what they think about things they read and write.

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Roy & car


Nightfall and other poems

by Crawdad Nelson



Far off the concussive message of sporting arms:
goosehunters deep on the bay, lying flat on their backs,
on floating caskets lining the flats, on flat water,
on the flats, on backs
like disabled beetles lifting single skeletal arms
–firing into conflicted sky–
as rain simmers everywhere, goes on forever,
and wind tries me across the cheek; out there on the island
ring of steel against dried timbers,
splintering planks, sinking in;
there’s something to be said,
wind says it without me,
distant shotguns pronounce it with modern accent
geese high over all proclaim it with courage
despite revolving winds and birdshot,
exclaiming “here I am,” sailing into gunfire,
eternity at a thousand feet,
far off the beating drum of time choosing who dies,
I see nothing coming up the alley, nothing soaked
to bare skin on barren coast,
walking home, eating the body.

I see steel across darkness into shadow,
someone grunts, and does it again, steel
clean and hard against the wood, into the wood, the wood.
Sitting in the room old as time
I watch the white dress flap in the wind

and sand falls like dry rain seeping inside the walls;
solving and resolving things, measuring good and bad,
deep and wide;
voices rising from floorboards confused in purpose and effect,
crying out schedules and times, charging two bits a plug,
accusing visitors of cold murder,
calling out names;
whereas the bay renews itself at dawn and dusk, purges
trenchant obstacles and the small parts of expired creatures,
that form the breast of the sea, and time
is unheard of on the soft roll,
unheard of and unheard.
Nothing creeps in like a night fog.

Stealing Time

Discovering old Playboys on the shelf
at Cardoza’s antique shop I relive secretly 1970s ,
when nobody shaved.

Avoiding work,
expenses, expectations.
Watching girls pass outside, swinging hips,
between jobs, after clients, business;
across the street hookers tarry,
disguise their intent, speak with their hands.

Under the $40 skillets and War 1 medals
a cluster of stiletto knives,
surrounded by dead raccoon coats
still slightly inky and rainy,
and one has to push through big band records

and carved balsa salmon trolling lures,
triple barbed and hideously clawed,
the type that hang like charms in every old garage or shed
on the Pacific coast, smiling anachronistic herring,
awaiting rebirth, to discover the genuine stone blade
or the box of fragile obsidian arrowheads
dating to antiquity. Time comes wrapped in trade blankets,
a man’s last decorated pair of nuts
for gambling, burled and runic
as a set of oracle bones.


What do you know about love
wondered the bank teller, accepting my nom de plume
on a $25 check
you ought to know something if you write
those poems…

I tried to explain how little I knew with a simple
gesture and a few words

but she caught and held my eyes,
she stood
on her toes which
was like watching the sun rise
as her neckline
dazzled with gravity
and promise,

I wish I knew what you know,
she offered, but I said it was far simpler
to be a poem than to make one.

I wished I knew less.


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Crawdad Nelson has published poems, stories, essays and articles in the small press for over twenty years. He has been editor, pasteup man and photographer as well. He currently works at a community college helping people understand what they think about things they read and write.

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photo by Skot Horn