Hometown Hero: An Excerpt

Chapter 1

A silver bus shot through pin-dropping pines
on a mountain slope, whose broken roots fell
into the tossing water of a stream
along which the hiway wound. To the north,
they travelled, a busload full of loggers,
and women on return from shopping trips,
some students too. A ways apart there sat
a man, with book open he did not read.
Others cast him covert glances, and thought,
"Here is one we do not know. Who is it?"
A sister, among her friends, purse open,
rummages and finds a scored clipping
of some award bestowed on flag-draped stage.
"You are he," she says, "who songs I admire,
and sing, when dishes pile high in the sink,
or, in moments intimate with my Doug,
as we rumpy-pump on the morning bed.
Come now, let us hear those national hits,
so often disclosed on pop radio."

Yes, it was he, Walter Wisdom, the man
who sat apart. Walter Wisdom, who was,
since two thousand and two, the creator
of twelve top twenty hits, and then also
juggernaut concert draw in festivals
worldwide. Walter Wisdom, who had, top side,
identifiable shock of white hair,
and, below, penchant for red satin shorts
under his pants. Walter Wisdom sets by
his book ('Screw Your Enemies' -- erudite),
adjusts his thin, bespeckled tie, and then,
adjusts his face. "What do you want of me?"
he asks in voice flat as death's comeuppance.
Some loggers sitting seats ahead, look back,
attracted by the note of sly menace,
but, seeing only a slight geek, play cards
and drink, as woman extends shaking hand
with pen for autograph she soon regrets.

At the tunnel-mouth, where hiway enters
a long curve underneath the mountain's stride,
a scream, a struggle, the sound of suckers
popping off flesh, scurrying of massed legs,
ropey legs, across the ceiling and out,
and when the lights flare up again, there is
the music fan in discarded heap, bleeding
from the hand, where pen is jabbed through her palm,
and though the puckered face turns down, we see
circular scars, like kisses or craters
on the moon. The hatch above is open,
in daylight streams, along with the wind-whip
of movement. Nowhere is Walter Wisdom.
Struck sober, burly loggers come, take charge;
instruct spook-eyed driver, straight to route's end
you go, an ambulance to find us there.

An occasional vacation even
an ex-angel allows himself, and though
it is a humble heap of chrome he drives,
and from a spartan apartment he comes,
it is as every citizen he lives,
and, the wealth of fern and forest that lies
outside city bounds is his, as it is
for anyone of residence. The car
he pilots onto the tunnel, 'round a bend,
he, Robert Hunger, stifling swollen yawn,
a finger fidgeting with the tuner,
and radio sound. A mere blink and then
unexpected descent of total dark:
in the tunnel no cones flank as lit guides,
reflect not overhead. Lucid minute,
as hand toggles headlight, and eyes drink in,
pinioned there, squatting, rearing, squealing loud,
a beast of indeterminate design.
It leaps, many legs strike as one the hood
of Robert's car. He swerves; against the glass
long tentacles instead of tongues slash licks
imprint. Maddened man eyes look into his,
then gone -- into the firm wall he crashes.