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Why we like Road Movies

Time robbed the town bank now he’s on the run.
You’re the cop and the car-chase has begun.
Too late you realise those dead ends you paced,
the stakeout boredom life you waste
stuck in traffic – if only you could catch
the big boy who did the snatch.

Move! Hey, move! He’s on the freeway!
While these losers deny me leeway
he’s up front hatching some new scheme
on the tarmac trail of this Technicolor dream,
Time always flying like the shattered sliver
from that stolen motor crashed in the river.

Roaring now, get back you fools!
I’m the law here, make my own rules:
slipping the lead, losing everyone,
it’s me and him on the highway to oblivion –
oncoming traffic, Doppler effect,
artics swerving, skidding, wrecked…

But this is why we like road movies,
the point and what it proves is:
while you and Time race side by side,
Death along with him for the ride,
we’re immortal and Time – that scumbag killer –
is locked forever in his third-rate thriller.

In this wood while the engine’s cooling,
crouched by the stream in hopes we’re fooling
the archetypal ridgeback baddie
and his gangster crew in their tailfin Caddy,
before joy flies as we go to kiss
we hear sticks crack and the snake-eyed hiss

of the mob with their guns and clubs and knives
as pursued by dogs we run for our lives.
In the motor no time to spare
you can’t back up from their stone hard stare,
every line in the script another cliché
Time has the bill and you’ve got to pay.

The open road, what we’ve been waiting for!
Lid down, hear that engine roar,
radio on, wind in our hair,
cruising the slow bend on the way to somewhere,
big clouds, low hills, sky’s blue:
never see them again except in the rearview.

“If we ever got caught out here in the flatland”
began as a joke now we reach for each other’s hand:
it hasn’t turned out the way we planned
waiting to re-enact Custer’s last stand
as dusk falls like the shadow of a lone star
headlights prowl in the parody of film noir.
Zombie, werewolf, avatar –
Fall asleep and they’ll kill us in our own car.
If only we’d stopped at the last gas station
we wouldn’t be in this situation.

But you said it’s like The Chase it’s iconic
and not seeing the badman’s face is ironic.
Me I went for Blues Brothers,
In this World, Thelma and Louise and others –
runaways, foragers, we hunted for the next name –
still as images arrested in freeze frame.

First light, stealing through the trees
stealing my heart, steel in my memories.
First cut deeper than the sea,
first light raining down on me.
This road’s a ghost we all should know
straight as an arrow, bent like a bow –
ambush only ever a stone’s throw –
dogs of war running at your elbow.

On the rumble strip a Dharma Bum:
the pointing finger of an upraised thumb
showing what we might have been,
telling us what we’ve become
as a blur splits seconds of separation,
a hard luck story’s failed recitation,
kerbside pariah’s railed exhortation,
the campfire messiah’s unheard recantation:
doesn’t do drugs now he’s into meditation.

Every road movie needs a motel
with a sleazoid janitor sprawled by the bell,
that sickly, meanstreet, cheesefeet smell
mustard curtains in the anteroom to hell:
As people down the corridor drink, fight, scream, screw,
He says 50 down so what you wanna do?
Take it or leave it, don’t matter to me,
don’t use the hot tap, plumber’s due Tuesday.

But out in the desert’s heaven scent of flowers
rocks of age and their granite towers
shape the road with invisible powers
and Jesus rides his long white limo,
Rayban shades and an arm round his bimbo,
an outstretched hand trailing out of the window
feeling how the slipstream winds blow.
As morning becomes Electraglide in Blue,
in the graveyard scene mourning becomes you.

Looking back down the double white line
where the car you drove nearly outran Time,
it all goes back to the original crime,
the original sin, the unoriginal plotline –
we stole some moments, cheated Death,
squandered our talents, misspent our youth
twisted truth and wasted breath.

From golden child to mother’s ruin,
from town cop to the gangster’s goon,
stalled in a rustbucket getaway car
that got away but didn’t get far:
though we got the t-shirt, we got the tv,
we got the poster and the dvd –
pics on the smartphone,
videos on moviedrome,
we’re never going to get home,
stuck here all alone.
Hear those sirens!
Take cover they’re firing!
Lost in the desert when it started so good,
a little cross made out of wood,
next to a flower that has no name
burnt with a fire that has no flame
everyone too busy playing their life game…

Except — this is why we like road movies
the point and what it proves is:
life is a gift not just a borrow
so wind back the reel with its pain and sorrow
we’ll be hitting the road again tomorrow.
Yes we’re immortal; and Time – that scumbag killer –
is collared, banged up in the chiller
and locked forever in his third rate thriller.

© Keith Spurgin 20 December 2015

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