Swing wide, Uncle Pendulum.
Carolina’s gone cold,
but Florida smiles up ahead
like a hospital at midnight.
Ride on, Sergeant Nobody.
Roll down your window
and collect in your cupped palm
all the black rushing air
between your rearview graveyards
and the river waiting for you,
whose birth name is Wacissa.
Collect the death wishes.
Collect the sex dreams.
Collect the visions of planes
falling out of the sky because
love refused to keep them afloat
for one more god-damned minute.
Uncle, your birth name is a word
people spit out of their mouth
like a plum gone rotten.
The bones in your hand are broken.
The light in your eyes: gone.
You don’t believe in anything,
but you believe in Florida.
A good river could get you right.
Don’t ask how long, O Lord.
The map says four hundred and nine miles,
but the map is like the red-haired woman
who runs the college where you work:
a bush on fire with bad facts,
a kindly shrub in middle of desert.
Ride on means ride on, etc., etc.
Your problem is you want the river,
but you don’t want the gators.
Your problem is you want death,
but you don’t want the dying.
Take mercy where you find it.
Mercy is knowing
you don’t make these drives alone.
Mercy is the genius in Tallahassee
with an island of wild horses
running high in his veins.
Mercy is the poet in Goose Creek
who tattooed his name
onto the arm of the apocalypse.
Mercy is the brother riding shotgun
whose dream is your dream
and whose voice is your voice.
Bad news, Uncle Pendulum:
the dark keeps getting darker
and the gators are closing in.
The good news:
if you don’t think about them,
they disappear like lukewarm poems,
and the river is yours forever.