Blackened palm trees,
fronds sun shriveled,
rest in piles by the roadside.
Tarred chunks of shack roofs
and mottled screens peel away.
Persistent mold creeps
up walls and down doorways,
greybrown stains widening
like long unwashed laundry.
Billboards beckon victims
of car crashes and work injuries
by 800 numbers involving words
like “pay” and “cash” and “win.”
We are driving from Florida’s center
to Palm Beach County.
The distance is Continental.
Limp Spanish moss dangles
from tired trees. Faded pink
messages from Jesus adorn the walls
of Pentecostal church fronts.
Dirt roads curve away from the
highway into swampy grasses,
green washes down to primary yellow,
then fades to beige. A few black cows
wander back and forth,
gazing at lingering green patches
next to stillborn stripes of water.
As we travel in the early light,
a shadow image emerges –
Water Buffalo in watery fields of rice
along Vietnam’s highways. Adjacent
dirt roads wind back to hidden wildness.
Occasional Gospel messages animate
modest pale buildings, abetted by tiny flags.
The bright sounds of growth
emerge in every small village,
oddly configured new constructions
alight with the thrill of starting up.
Factories sprang to life in the distance,
smoky chimneys cast a light fog
and promised ersatz goods.
Diners eager for pho and bánh mì
fill small plastic chairs and tables
along roadsides and sidewalks,
then rested in rainbow hued hammocks
before boarding ubiquitous scooters.
Markets are flush with photogenic kumquats,
dragon fruit, pomelo, tinsel mementoes.
A pulsing energy, alert and jazzed,
hovered over these farmlands and fields,
as if the ancestors who lie so quietly
in scattered funerary structures
have finally been tempted back to life
by so many golden candy offerings.
These worn Florida highways
offer no such luminosity.
The mood is dark.
like a moist August.
Progress is not a likely entry
in these vocabularies.
No wonder they are plotting resistance,
digging tunnels in their minds
against The Enemy.
Driving from Orlando to West Palm Beach