Driving through the Karoo
in the bright heat
of a summer afternoon,
torpid with sweat,
wind flapping damp towels
jammed in the cracks
of rolled-up windows,
my mother at the wheel,
the veldt reaches up a claw
tears a tire on the black ’48 Dodge.
Wounded, it pulls
to one side, careens
to the other. Gravel crunches,
tarmac slips, my mother taps
the brake. The shiny car slides
slowly like a dry-land
turtle and turns on its side,
helpless in a ditch.
The veldt gathers close, throws up dust.
The veldt flees far and wide,
waves a flat horizon. The sun
jams fractured rays through the shattered
windshield. Dry dust and stones
grab our cheeks. Dung beetles hide.
Passing motorists squeal their brakes
run down the embankment. Strangers
lift us out of the Dodge’s carapace.
Dusk conjures Meneer Dutoit,
waving a brandy flask.
The Karoo spreads a deep blue scrim,
celebrates with stars.
That night we lie awake
on the Dutoit’s screened in porch,
cotton pajamas sticking to our backs,
listening to the grunt of trains shunting,
dreaming of home.
Vivienne Popperl lives in Portland, Oregon where she finds solace in long walks and poetry. Her poems have appeared in several journals including Clackamas Literary Review, Willawaw, and Timberline Review and are forthcoming in the OPA Pandemic Poetry issue and Motherscope.