Kassandra Montag

Travels in the Automobile

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?”
— Jack Kerouac


American road with its smooth asphalt,
a river running through town, 
a way of sailing,
of moving for so long it becomes a kind of stillness. 
They have been driving for four days,
nowhere, for no reason. 
She stands alongside the road
in her wool coat, one hand holding a coffee mug,
the other hand nudging hair from her face,
telephone poles strung along the asphalt,
blurry in the distance, as though seen through a camera lens
that focuses only on what is near and present. 
She is smiling, gap between her teeth
just barely visible, rust red of the wool
making her skin turn pale and translucent 
in the autumn dawn. 
Rhythms appear, instinctual as the tide
every evening, as implacable as the grass
drying each fall. Each movement they made,
a kind of calling out to one another in the night,
touching each other with their voices, with their tongues. 
In tall grass he asks her how long 
will it last, how long
will they lie on the earth
as they do now, her turned to him,
him gazing at the sky, picking
the tips off buffalo grass
how long will the metal car
sail along the asphalt, wind in her long hair,
him smelling her, smelling the lilacs
by the side of the road until
this kind of fire
has to burn out,
one of these hours,
on one of these roads.

Kassandra Montag grew up in rural Nebraska and now lives in Omaha with her husband and two sons. She holds a master’s degree in English Literature and her award-winning poetry and short fiction has appeared in journals and anthologies, including Midwestern Gothic, Nebraska Poetry, Prairie Schooner,and Mystery Weekly Magazine. After the Flood is her first novel.