by Sebastian Agudelo

To chart this country, what better coordinates
than Wayne and Coulter, at the stoplight now,
when going northwest, a Chevy Impala coupe—
detailed with racing stripe to match the neon
glowing from the undercarriage, rims spinning
to a distortion that gathers more momentum
every beat—is commandeered by a kid adjusting
his lycra du-rag in the rear-view mirror;
while going southeast, waiting for the light to change
and blasting another variant of beatboxing
and dub, albeit, without a dedicated subwoofer
amp, the kids from GFS, the private school
a few blocks east, text away in a Mercedes.

What does Coetzee say? In a time out of time,
at either side of the divide you’ve got children
of paradise, fresh off swimming lessons, riding, ballet,
soft as putti, shining with angelic light, fenced in.
Their innocence, the innocence of grubs,
bliss-filled, soul-stunned, abstracted, plump.
Like the lumpish, spoilt bullies in the last row,
they’ll be promoted and rule the land.
Legitimacy they no longer trouble to claim, he says.
And then, their cousins on whom the first shade
of the prison house is already beginning to close,
rapacious, cruel, afraid of nothing, children of iron
of the times, snarled in the knags of violence.

There are other places, sure, ranches in Wyoming,
the shipping of Manhattan north and west,
bays and inlets, subdivisions near Scottsdale,
Point Reyes or the outer banks, the panoramic
of a sierra and Death Valley, the souvenir shops,
hospitals, the epic mile on mile of sound barrier
shielding new developments all along I-95.
There is the map of the returns with its fat
middle, its well-oxygenated red states chocking
East and West, also the mock Calvaries
popping-up beside porn shops and strip bars
everywhere on interstates, Jesus camps,
and malls and multiplexes with five-story screens.

Wayne and Coulter works: the red, gold
and green of the Rasta Bodega catty-cornered
to the halfway house, the Impala, no white flags,
no mercy I’m getting yo ass,
the Mercedes pumping
another version, are neither emblems
nor metaphors, rhumbs for the north by northwest
slews the newspapers document each morning.
Be it AIG or holdup, budgets or graduation rates,
this agon of speaker power is as good a breviary
for where we are: a single pulse, with gas to burn,
blaring the same language, speaking in tongues,
with one kid going God knows where,
the others traveling the exact opposite direction.

Published on August 27, 2014