Growing up in a prairie city
we drove down sandpaper streets.
The first snow fell
covering the streets with hush now,
followed by trucks
covering the hush with sand
melting it into slush,
which froze into brown ice,
so more trucks came, with more sand
grinding the brown ice into sludge
other trucks could swipe
to the curb, and there,
grit piles sank into grime mounds
washing away into gravel reminders and
drying into grey dust
that flew and landed everywhere
tinting the entire city ashen
until the next snow fell.
No car stayed clean for long.
An Escalade covered in muck
is no cooler than
an El Camino covered in muck.
So fuck it
wear your work books to the night club.
We drove to the strip mall.
We drove from one side of the strip mall to the other side.
We drove to the world’s largest shopping mall.
We drove around the world’s largest shopping mall
looking for our friend’s car.
We drove with the stereo turned up
to drown out the Great Plain silence.
Walking anywhere was
considered an eccentricity of the highest order.
Your face could fall off.
The only walking occurred to or from your vehicle.
In that frenzied shuffle,
the earth in the air
blew into our eyes, our nose,
our mouth. It tasted like blood and diesel,
ghost mountains and punctual asskickings,
like the hymns of bow-backed abandoned barns
and like the clouds strolling overhead
deciding when to condescend upon
We parked our broken tractor childhoods
in that back 40 above us
the useless prairie city sky.
It was always waiting there, daring us
to go up
and think in it.
We kept our heads down.
Our face would not fall off.
We made it
to the car.
Text by Chris Gilpin. Performed with Mary Pinkoski at the 2013 Calgary Spoken Word Festival.