Ryan Van Winkle is currently the Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library and Edinburgh City Libraries. He runs a monthly “Literary Cabaret” called The Golden Hour and is an Editor at Forest Publications. He lives in Edinburgh but was born and spent most of his life in America. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, Northwords Now, and (soon) The American Poetry Review.
A week ago I spilled
a can of gasoline onto the dirt
floor of the barn.
A gallon or so soaked into the earth.
Since then, I’ve had headaches,
can’t catch my balance.
And I can still smell the gas
from more than 20 yards away.
It reminds me of hitching west
and this ride I hooked
in the back of a truck
the color of rust.
When I shook the driver’s hand he smiled.
His teeth looked like a caterpillar,
and I knew I was beat.
The guy kept all these rags back there,
soaked in gasoline. It was warm
and I fell asleep in a cocoon of reek.
When I came to, it was almost time
to get out. I could feel caterpillars on me,
thought I was going to suffocate.
......He said the free ride was over, it was only a matter of time,
............and I didn’t wish to be out west,
......didn’t care to sit in any more cars with strangers
............and talk about the pace or weather back east.
I tried to lose the smell in a stream,
thought I sent it upriver, away
like father, the attic, his ties.