Joy Ride

Ron Slate

All the way down the street events occurfrom which I'm held back, but in response to this blockagetheir sounds and smells draw closer. An insult shouted from a passing car.A burst of music and voices when the weathered door of the Knotty Pineopens and two young women emerge, they came out from the tavernand paused on the sidewalk beside a black-and-white idling at the curb,the two cops had disappeared around the corner to lift a trash bintipped into the gutter as a prank, and the women scrambledinto the police car and sped away down Hancock Street.But between the opening of the door of the Knotty Pineand the screech of tires, the women's eyes swept over mine,one hand gestured, and I got into the front seat with them.There was the precipice, then the fall and tumbleflattening out into flight that in the span of my lifehas never touched down, though when she who was driving,she with the blue raincoat and clacking bracelet, said at the L Street bathhouseyou're getting out, whoever you are, I did. Some minutes laterthey were stopped by the Boston police as the Globe later reportedin the copy I bought from the box outside the Knotty Pineand the apartment I rented above with the slanted floor,a view of a row of stores across the street, now eight storiesof condos, from the higher floors you can see the bayand the boulevard we raced down towards the citylistening to the dispatcher telling us to stop before things gotoo far, how far is that? the other one beside me asked,she with the ponytail lighting up one of the cops' Marlboros,her exhalations in my lungs, as years later on business flightsover oceans I inhaled everything depletedand watched a film in which an anthropologist, having observed apesattack their ape adversaries, still insisted humans are worth developingeven as some massacre or other was happening miles belowthe refreshment cart coming haltingly down the aisle,which makes me recall that the cops had also left behind, what else?a bag of glazed doughnuts with which we took communion,the rite of passage to another body by absorption, and trulyI've been so many persons and have carried them with mefrom the beginning like some winged transport, de-icedevery morning and feeling upon waking as if someonehad been driving my car all night and tossed her trashinto the back seat while in dreams I eluded my enemies.What has been withheld is fated to take form, the ancient laurel treesare finally visible, all the way to Madeira I went to witness themand the footpaths and irrigation channels, a craving for the memoryin the bodies of the landscape—the young women turnedinto laurel trees, so the myth goes, in order to hide from Apollo—a craving for anything that lasts longer than a few minutes of escapewhich nevertheless are pitched against the years of dubious salaried effortthat demanded all my artifice and the emphatic movement of my handsmaking a convincing case for what would master and dispose of me.Office clothes I no longer wear, stuffed in a black plastic bag and shovedinto the Goodwill Industries receptacle, specifically the onetwo blocks down from the Knotty Pine which took forty-five minutesto get to, all the way with two remorseless young womenembodied in a radio song sung to whomever I am.

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Ron Slate was born in Quincy, Massachusetts. His poetry collections are The Incentive of the Maggot, nominated for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, The Great Wave and Joy Ride. He is the editor and host of the online literary journal On The Seawall and lives in Aquinnah, Massachusetts.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Carnegie Mellon University

"Ron Slate’s Joy Ride moves with the movement of the mind. History and memory twine with the present, as spectral and intangible as the past. Loss and grief are not treated as spectacle, but they imbue every line. I love the way I feel when I read Joyce’s and Chekhov’s stories. These poems put me in a similar state—a kind of fugue, a surreal strangeness, but with a grounded adherence to the ordinary. Whatever this feeling is, there’s no word for it. It’s what I seek when I read and write poems, but to find it is rare. Joy Ride is the dream that the passage of time wakes in us."
— Diane Seuss

"In Ron Slate’s long-awaited new book of poems, family stories intersect with public events. What interests me especially is the way that the stories in Joy Ride nest in meditations on the nature of storytelling itself. 'If a story satisfies, it has the power to hinder, and if it hinders then it has the power to satisfy,' Slate writes in a prose poem recounting his family’s flight from Paris during the Occupation. This strikes me as an original and fascinating way to complicate and refresh narrative in poetry beyond anecdote. But most of all, to read Ron Slate is to experience vivid clarity."
— Daisy Fried

"Startling encounters with family and strangers at home and abroad, moments of wonder and sobering clarity—Ron Slate shapes experience into sophisticated poems that show the world in its raw and achingly beautiful forms. His words are astute and acutely observant."
— Rigoberto González

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