(What You Listened To Before You Were Born)
Nostalgic for a time and place that has never been,
you are lying in the back seat, idly gazing out
at the grey metal skies, and the road signs
all read backwards along the interstate,
but who cares — it is all passing,
like a thought, like a memory.
It might be a Sunday afternoon, it might even be
that time that never really was, except there is this feeling,
a sensation of traveling without moving, a kind of dreamy loop
that will never break out of itself, never be more than it is.
Still, there is a vague comfort in the nondescript monotony,
a warm atmospheric embrace, like what we all listened to
before we were born, before we made any tenuous decision
to assume some form — just that hypnotic serenade of tires
gliding along the highway, a lullaby of mechanical sighs,
without any meaning or necessity except what it is,
and not really wanting it to be otherwise.
On the car radio, they keep playing a song
made popular during the war.
It doesn’t really matter which particular war —
they are always fighting, always killing each other
in their dreams, while the band keeps playing
the same damn songs, and everyone ends up
singing along despite themselves.
You are not really listening, so absorbed are you
in your own warm boredom, in the flickering movie
playing on the screen of your eyelids, and it is enough
to pass the time perhaps on this interminable road trip.
In the film, you are focused on trying to get somewhere,
but it is never clear where that is, or even if it is an actual place.
This may be one of those movies that end up haunting you,
even after you have woken and exited the neural theater.
It may return again and again in disjointed fragments,
like the nagging guilt you experienced in childhood
for some offense that might today seem trivial,
and yet you can’t quite shake that unsettling feeling
of having done something wrong, even now.
The preachers all say “Let go, let it all go”,
and yet you can’t, it keeps returning, like a distant voice
trying to tell you something, maybe something important,
but you can never quite hear — the noise of the road
is too loud, and the song on the radio, that one
they keep playing over and over . . .
A streaming parade of images,
relentless mind traffic,
all empty of any self-nature,
just passing cars in the twilight,
headlights approaching, tail lights receding,
and you can barely keep your eyes open
as your head slowly nods to the side,
and now you are asleep.
In the rear view mirror, your body looks abandoned,
just a lump of your likeness involuntarily shifting
back and forth, now this way and then that,
timed to the motions of the traveling auto
as it makes its way through
the descending dusk.
Here in your dream you find yourself rising up,
ascending high above the interstate,
above the snaking traffic below,
and now your are flying through the sky,
unconfined by gravity’s grip, soaring
on wings of mere intent —
Then somehow the scene starts to fall apart,
it breaks into fragments that quickly dissolve;
you know it’s been said and here’s the proof —
whatever begins must surely end.
The sensation of motion itself has ceased
as the cool night air floods in from an opened door
and a new reality arranges itself for your attention.
Now a shadowy face leans close to your own,
it’s vaguely familiar, yet still indistinct, and their voice —
soft but insistent — is repeating in singsong refrain:
“Wake up, my little sleepyhead — we’re home!”