That time Wooten and I tried to walk
the forty miles from Lexington to Danville at 2 AM,
our determination fueled by Jim Beam
and the myth of what was in
Helen Berry’s underpants:

As we walked we talked of starting
our own traveling circus,
with a bearded lady and fat man,
perhaps one or two of the Blue Fugates,
touring the small towns of Kentucky
where the rubes are easily separated
from their money, swinging down around
Lake Cumberland and back up to the outskirts of Louisville
where the people are so stubborn
they’ll hold a thing to be true
even when you show them
the beard’s charcoal pencil and the fat’s all tumor.

At four and sobering up
I was walking the center line
when out of nowhere, a car,
sailing over the rise.

I was spun like a cartoon rabbit
as the auto went past,
and found myself in the middle
of the oncoming lane somehow still in one piece.

Wooten started screaming Whoo-boy,
swearing I’d passed through
the middle of the car.
You should be dead, he hooted,
over and over, like a mantra,
or a curse.

We both watched the car
that should have killed me
hurl away from us
into the first weak spokes of dawn,
its brake lights never once
flashing red.
I pinched myself, hard,
and it hurt.

Wooten and I don’t talk much anymore,
our lives veered down different paths.
He has his worries, and I have mine.
Worries, but no troubles:

ever since that night on the back roads
of my stupid youth, every day’s been gravy.