Sometime near dawn, driving a stolen car
So fast I will never arrive,
Floating without a destination and without a license
Along the empty highways across the Mississippi from St. Louis,
Just the occasional big interstate truck’s
Prong of headlights sticking into the dark
Through the misty summer odor of to get away!
At age fifteen, too young to drive or drink—
Is what I did a lot of, with a lot of drink,
And the driver’s-side window open
To loll my head out to sniff the oncoming breeze like a dog,
Quaffing the opiate of the gigantic fields of Illinois,
Sucking in deep breaths of the husky
Thick bittersweet bituminous
Rising already at this early hour from the factory smokestacks
Of collapsing factories made of roseate bricks,
Ecstatic, as though of prednisone I had drunk,
And that cold black earth smell out in the boondocks.
And Vergil takes me by the hand as we descend
To meet the shades of Homer, Ovid, Horace, Lucan.
And I stop to give those greats a ride at dawn
And in their company at sunrise whoosh to wherever I belong
On wings of song.
How in the world does this connect to Barbara Epstein?
This is a way of bringing flowers to her shrine.
If I’m constantly stealing my father’s cars, forever, she is forever
Founding co-editor of The New York Review of Books, and that’s better—
Even though she nearly always canceled at the last minute
Every lunch date she ever made with anyone, or so it seemed!
One of the great editors
(And even in that wicked world everyone revered her)
Could be relied on to cancel
The lunch date with you she herself had made.
It was her tic nerveux to have to.
This is what happens when you think of someone no longer alive you love.