Nancy, Driver, Toyota Avalon

I used to carry a paper bag
with me, to breathe into.
It’s true. I kept it right here
beside me, and I used it
at red lights, to keep
the panic down. I had

a whole system of
back roads and no
left turns, or at least
none without arrows.

I was hypnotized a few times,
laid out in a recliner, told that
my car was a sanctuary, a place
of great peace. I drifted along

on that idea, and then
went back to back roads
and paper bags. One day,

I got on this interstate, I-70,
by accident, merged onto it
while I was thinking about
something else. And that’s

what did it, I guess. No bag
since then, and I can pretty much
drive anywhere, make left turns
whenever I want. Sometimes

I imagine we’re all white blood cells,
platelets, I don’t know—something
in the blood—moved by a great

muscle, a heart I can’t see
but can feel. Shift into drive,
foot on the gas, breathe once,
drop into the bloodstream.



For Open Link Night at dVerse Poets.


22 thoughts on “Nancy, Driver, Toyota Avalon

  1. This is stellar. The part about being moved by a heart you can’t see, but can feel is the sort of thing that makes poetry, to me. Thank you for the chance to read this intriguing, unusual poem.

  2. Awesome. I felt like I was right beside you in that car riding around the world to stay out of the thick of it. When you found yourself on the interstate, I cheered. 🙂

    • Thanks, Charlotte! I share some of this speaker’s experiences, but I’ve borrowed some of my mom’s, too. She was the one who accidentally drove on a highway once … but unfortunately, then she said she’d never, ever do that again. So there’s some wishful thinking in here, too …

  3. I share your feelings – I was exactly like that (except that in UK it was fear of right turns!) for years until, driving my husband with an arm in plaster, He told me which way to go, and I found myself on the notorious Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham, which lived up to its name, a nightmare of under and over slip roads and two motorways.( the equivalent of IS). We survived, and after that I would drive anywhere.

    I like the way you tell the story.

    • Thanks so much, Viv! This is a blend of my experiences and my mom’s. I was hypnotized, and she accidentally got on a highway one day. Sadly, though, she vowed to never, ever do that again. I now live in a big city with reliable transit, so I don’t have to drive — kind of a shame, because I’m definitely more anxious about it now than when I had to do it. I love your Spaghetti Junction story!

  4. Marilyn, it’s thrilling to see you enjoying your travels in Personaland this month! I really like how the tension in the first five stanzas resolves by way of a physical-metaphysical metaphor in the final two. This poem is so good, I hold my breath for that every time I re-read it.

  5. Wow, thanks, Jennifer! Yes, I’ve been having a lot of fun this month. It’s a new approach to cracking the chapbook nut — writing poems that go together from the beginning, rather than trying to shoehorn them into some sort of theme later. Really glad this one stands up to multiple readings for you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s