Here it is, The Fool, stepping off his cliff. I love you, he says, I’m saying, and fuck. Thank god the road is there to save me from myself. It’s always known how to love me best, by being there, by running away from me. Every mile I gain on it, it’s got thousands more in every direction. My previous lives have all felt its pull and stretch, the tease of its bending smile: when I was Jonah boarding the ship, out out! to the sea!, crisp salt air filling my chest with hope even as a hungry god lurked in the waters beneath; the road, the road. When I was Persephone climbing aboard my lover’s
oil-black motorcycle—the way his engine rumbled, it sounded like the growling of a three-headed dog. When I was Merlin deliciously insane on the dirt paths of ancient England, my youth rushing toward my creaking body even as the wilderness tangled in on my mind, tempting me toward kings and lakes and crystal caves. When I was Odysseus and everything, everywhere, a wine-dark sea. When I was all one hundred and one of those Dalmatians sneaking off into the dark, fresh mud squelching beneath my paws, my fur coat the night sky’s wild inversion. When I was with Allen and Jack and taking their poetry like medicine against all that my preacher-father taught me in our years running 92 The Chase through every parish in North Carolina. When I was the hurricane that dragged my mother’s house out to sea and everything started again. How it’s always been a dawn in my chest. A notion clear and untouchable as light. My soul bending toward the scent of circuses— popcorn, elephants, funnel cake; the chalky taste of that sad clown’s makeup as we licked each other—and the blaring of foghorns, the crunch of waves against a ship’s hull, the violent romance of a pirate’s laugh as they take you in their arms and swagger, “Kiss me if you want to live.” My grandmother, several greats back, smeared her naked body with blood jelly in hopes of drifting up to her lover, the moon. She scrawled with the black ink from a snake’s fang into a diary that now bakes in my old Impala’s glove compartment: Only ye who wish to be chased shall run away, and yes, Grandmother, yes! If you don’t chase me, how will I know you love me? If you don’t chase me, how will you ever taste my dust? If you don’t chase me, whose arms will I fall into at the edge of the world? What is a great fuck but a great running away—a flight into another’s body, another’s pleasure, another’s breath. I don’t care about sex, but I care about this: the road. The motion. The glorious roar of the horizon, a cheek so soft, so exquisitely curved, you’ll reach to touch it again and again and helplessly again. If you aren’t running by now, you’re either dead or much braver than me. If you aren’t running by now, there’s nothing I can do for you. If you aren’t running by now, sweetheart, it’s because you’ve already been caught.