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”
Enjoy this poem? Subscribe to the Oxford American.