I remember the first
of sixteen hours:
D.C. to Jacksonville,
the sudden showers
that fouled our camping gear
lashed to the trunk (the grill
stowed inside gave us planning qualms,
as did the overloaded rear).
Our twenty roastbeef sandwiches were rare;
we chewed past elms and evergreens to palms,
only stopping to gas and piss.
Dead-tired, we took the first motel
and left our wives to sleep
after one kiss.
Then we slowed down . . . the bikes and bells
of St. Augustine . . . Datona . . . Lauderdale
(out of season—cheap). Malingerers
along the ocean coast, we camped in a gale,
unnerved by stories of the coral snake
that bites the web of flesh between your fingers,
the rain drumming on our tents, mostly awake
that night. Then to the subdivided beaches
of Miami, and off to skirt the sprinkled Keys,
and scratch through the Everglades, whose reaches
awed us: mangrove and rainbow birds. The pleas
of the girls annoyed us; the spanking pink
marina seemed to ruin the budget.
Next, up the Gulf Coast, that stainless sink
of jeweled villages that old folks covet,
and inland . . . Orlando . . . water skiers
(you scraped the bumper sticker off, got leers).
At last, weary and gritty, two-weeks tan,
we stumbled north onto the long streak back.
We bought a final sack of oranges, assorted jams
for gifts, ate half of them, wiggled up the track.
That was the best of all our holidays:
the key-lime pie, the fetid clothes for pillows,
red neon snapper signs, the endless highways
strewn with armadillos.
Philip K. Jason was the editor of Poetry Lore from 1979 to 1998. The author of four books of poetry and numerous works of criticism, he is currently the Workshop Leader and Program Chair at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland. (updated 6/2010)