Driving Through a Blizzard
The mind says: This is a metaphor for your life.
The body says: This is your life—keep driving.
The moon says: I can’t see you through the white
with my one gray cataracted pupil; you, my friend, do not exist.
The snow bank says: Come into me. I love you.
The cliff’s edge says: Don’t listen to the snow bank;
steer over. I’ll show you a really good time.
The road says: I’ve disappeared; you’re flying through a cloud.
The mind says: Shut up.
The body says: Shut up and keep driving.
Don’t listen to the mind; he makes things up; he’ll only get you in deeper trouble.
The car says: I’m sliding.
The eye says: Tree dead ahead.
The mind says: Brake, gently, gently.
The foot says: OK
The mind & body crawl into the same bed and say: Slow motion
The mind says: We’ve missed the tree.
& the body lets out a sigh.
The wind chimes in & says: I’m done fucking around;
watch me blow this snow into a whirlpool.
The mind says: Isn’t it wonderful how it all connects,
how all these voices arrive at their proper moments?
The mind says: We’ll never get out of this alive.
The mind says: You’re right.
The body agrees and closes its eyes.
The mind sees through the lids.
The mind says: I’m making this up; there’s no blizzard.
The body says: You should sit where I’m sitting.
The mind says: I’m making you up; I’m making it all up;
I’m making myself up.
The mind turns the car into a couch.
The body turns into the couch, begins to drift.
In a world where black is white, white is black,
the couch drives itself into the pitch, the body asleep at the pillow, out of motion.
The mind thinks to itself: Well, what next?
A woman appears in the passenger seat,
her own mind and body talking, her arms holding a baby.
And everything becomes infinitely more complex.
Then he thought he would fly
off the garage roof like Superman.
He pushed out from the edge.
The wind swept beneath him,
suspended him a blink, then let him
He heard his red blanket cape
flap once before he hit, heard
his right leg snap in two. One cheek
pressed against the ground, he saw
houses burning green with kryptonite,
bushes and trees laced with kryptonite,
kryptonite coating everything,
cleverly hidden by the enemy
until the instant he’d lifted off.
He felt his lungs draw kryptonite
particles in and out, his body
anchored to the Earth by kryptonite,
rendered weak and human, just like
Re-emerge is redundant.
When the body reappears, it has emerged.
Reappear sometimes may be appropriate,
such as when a body is present, disappears,
then becomes visible. For example,
the miners descend at dawn, reappear at dusk.
Like vampires, they emerge from the hole at sunset.
This is not an entirely accurate, either.
Vampires sleep through the day, work nightshift
while miners work through the day, sleep at night.
Vampires drain while miners are drained.
Vampires live forever while miners die young
from emphysema and cancer and black lung.
Black lung is fairly accurate since the tissue
literally turns black from inhaling coal dust,
comparable to the lungs of a cigarette smoker
who smokes three or four packs a day.
I smoke around a pack a day and I suspect
I have gray lung fading to black. I am here
on the back porch smoking and thinking
about miners who disappear and emerge,
reappear at dusk, like vampires. I believe
miners are the dentists of the earth. Of course
real dentists work outside picking their way to a root
while miners work inside picking their way to a vein.
Miners work so their sons can become dentists.
Dentists work so their sons don’t become miners.
I am the great grandson of a miner who died
before I was born. Nobody I know is a miner now.
I am friends with many dentists and vampires
who wouldn’t know a miner if he hacked in their faces.
The dentist is a vampire who works his pick and shovel
until he drains every last dime out of a tooth. Mostly,
everybody is pretty much the same as everybody else.
I am smoking cigarettes on the back porch,
probing the air with my pen, working the dark,
working the vein, working the root, tapping the blood.
Everybody is going into the hole. The only difference is
the costume the body wears as it makes its descent.
Everybody disappears. Nobody emerges or reappears.
It’s all semantics. You wake up, you go down.
If you’re lucky, you make it to the end of another day.
You breathe in, you breathe out. Then you don’t.
Kevin Rippin earned an M.A. in Writing from the University of Pittsburgh composition and creative writing programs, and he has worked as an editor, writer and teacher for the past 20 years, including the last six at NC A&T University, where he teaches writing. Rippin has published articles, reviews and poetry in magazines, newspapers and journals across the country, including Kansas Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Poetry East and Pittsburgh Quarterly. His chapbook, One Shuddering Tremolo, was published by Arbuckle Press.
Q: What is your approach to getting “unstuck” on a poem?
A: Write anything else.
Q: If you were to choose a movie director to create your scenes on film, who would that be, and why?
A: F. Ford Coppola. Don’t know why.
Q: Who or what are you reading now? Is it a source for, or a response to, your own work?
A: Chad Rohrbacher/Karma Backlash. It is not a response to my work.
Q: Paul Klee said that “A line is a dot that went for a walk.” Talk with us about how this analogy holds – or doesn’t - in “Semantics.”
A: Lines are all rhythm-based. The rhythm kicks in about 12 lines down, but the preface to that rhythm is important. One isn’t supposed to warm up? I often write my way into a poem and then cut. Here, the material seemed essential.