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“Highway 52, Mercer County, West Virginia,” by Roger May

Tar Road

Come June this brook runs soft,
takes its lumps, before the family
gets AC, your cheap bike busted,
walking tar-heeled, skin-to-skin
with a bruise-black two-laner hot
and spongy underfoot. Everything
existing, it seems like, on a one-
to-one basis. You here, the sun there,
the dark road. An oak, another oak.
The deaf mute’s pitiful house.
A shack, a shed, your uncle’s trailer.
Up ahead, the creek, its drowned
tires like rings of tar flash-cooled
in the au lait water, crawdads
to catch on cotton string, ease out
of the brown ooze, haul home
in a bucket, let stink on a step.
Your feet reading road like Braille,
the woman with a radio eyes
you from her slack porch, porch-
swinging in 4/4 time. Under-
ground, a dark crude sea atilt
against the earth’s axis, while
at your back, a twang-twaaaang
of AM country steel guitar,
then a crow cawing country blues.
A twang-twang. A twang-twaaaang.
A road disappearing into woods.

Listen to Nick Norwood read “Tar Road”

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Nick Norwood

Nick Norwood’s most recent volume, Gravel and Hawk, won the Hollis Summers Poetry Prize. He teaches at Columbus State University and directs the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians.