Some like it hot; some just endure it; I live inbetween, sweating at this
hour of 4:10 a.m. in late July with the Summer of 2010 locked down
on the land with a witchy spell that we earthbound walkers must pierce,
like hot fog, as we go about our ways. It makes days so fair and foul
that my words pour out in metricals—yah I mean poetry, sorry folks,
but extraordinary times demand a rhetoric blue and fleet enough
to hang with the Weird Sisters on their blasted heath, somewhere
between Daytona and Pocono and Homestead. At NASCAR’s
halfway mark I piss my own on the ancient stone like a dog marking
off territory—this sweltering morning, this thing of darkness, mine,
as is the world in this age: oil disappearing from the surface of
the Gulf with all its longer portents spreading wings below, with
unemployment’s canker blistering the paradisal fruit we call a life,
nine Florida cities in the nation’s top ten metropolitans of foreclosure,
98 degrees in O-Town the past two days, my wife’s mother in
the hospital with a racing pulse and fluid round the heart (too early
to tell anything but it adds a pall to things), scientists announcing a new
geological era – the Ediacaran Period, (635-542 million years ago,)
where pre-Cambrian life at last was found. Strange bits of newt
and ditch-born dram to throw into this post’s pot, but hell, that’s poetry:
A brew of language at its most blue, almost water, almost true.
Thus I make my next Oval case, racin’ dreams in full octane scream.
Blow this July’s swelter over all I do not know:
Inform the lanes and turns of Pocono.
Traces of the Ediacaran Period races in the mind of Wynona, NASCAR’s goddess of luck.
Now come the déjà vu days, NASCAR’s second round which follow Indy,
races which now count more than ever. Deep in this summer which now peals
its hot miasmas in precise reverse to the freeze which locked down the country
six months ago, Pocono Raceway is first; almost two months ago on June 6
the race was won by Denny Hamlin who, to all appearances, was running
away with 2010 (he won the next week at Michigan too and is still tied
with Jimmie Johnson with wins at 5). Now the season seems to be leaving
him behind—his best since was an 8th-place finish at Chicagoland on July
10—but that is not the tale which pries itself from my throat on this burnt
morning in July. Not at all. It’s just that the déjà vu of Pocono proceeds
from facts like these, the round of NASCAR’s present round of races which
found a season of weirdly-wired writing I’ve committed to hang with,
one way or another, for better or verse, as I will for this post. (Don’t fret–
I’ll wrap my Theme in easy meters, with Ovals of all orders to spell your eyes.)
Deep into the night lanes all the haulers go,
Freighting our wheeled hopes to Pocono.
The Chase is fast approaching—six more of the regular season and then we’re
off—so something heightens in the roar of Sprint Cup cars careening the three
weird turns of Pocono. Points count most for those hovering above and below
12th place—the finishing is all and well – but for the points leaders, the
winning’s all, each checkered flag adding five bonus points to the order of
the starting gates. A dual enterprise perhaps, twin purposes gelling now in the
brutal throttle of thousand-horsepower cars. Now it gets interesting and
important, taking on a sharp clarity that had only seemed a blur in the
proscenium of spring races. Now every race counts. Now the pack separates
along the vectors, which have been fanning out since February, new leaders
emerging (Harvick), old ones fading (Martin), Wynona riding hard on luckless
oughttabe’s like Gordon and Montoya. Our current champ Johnson hangs in
there though his wheels are slipping: will Team 48 pull it all together a
precisely the right time, once the Chase locks and loads and lets ‘em go?
Questions for the Sibyl of water fountains and chat rooms, opinions which
substantiate only in the augurs of God’s blue will, of what actually happens on
any given race. Throw the dice and let ‘er rip: Fortune’s milk hides in the nip.
Part the veils of sooth’s pale imago,
Bind up and spill the lanes of Pocono.
Pocono is nicknamed The Tricky Triangle because it’s a strange, strange track,
enfolding three turns so different than the other that the race seems like three in
one. Each turn was taken from a different track: Turn One (14 degree banking)
from the now-dead Trenton Speedway; Turn Two – also called “The Tunnel
Turn” a 9-degree Indy clone; while the 6-degree Turn Three was imported from
the Milwaukee Mile. A tri-oval so severe that it’s more likened to a triangle, the
crucial fourth turn lopped off into a severer shape—a feral geometrical, if you
will, racin’s own acute-boned triangle. So the trope of this poem must steer that
course: its argument three fold, or three-faced, or tri-lateral in its breadth and
depth and washes, like the charms of old the witches paced out, walking three
times backwards round a phallic rock. A motion, which must be engineered three
ways to race at Long Pond, PA: Of history and mystery and miseries composed.
Fortune, fright, and damn good fucking, that’s what the Weird Sisters propose,
each an occupant of the angles which make racing at the Tricky Triangle strange,
even elemental, although most drivers diss the track, each a Macbeth with
spleen, bent on that red-stained crown they aim to lift from a hacked oval head.
Three sticky, stacked red-hared track crones
bind up and spell my triune Poconone,
Pocono pulls fans from Philly and New York, but its set deep in the Pennsylvania
wild, hill country which was once where the earth first crusted, its slopes once
hoary giants towering for miles above the cooling Earth. All that ebbed down in
Time’s billion-year sleep, the Appalachian sediment washing south to form
Florida’s platform, grain by bony grain. I sit here this morning in a house
that rests on long dead-mountains: Pocono’s grit is my own; the Earth’s
bone conduit of eternal wear and seaward motions are in the restless
footers of this continent. NASCAR’s thrall of endless rounds amens
and hymens the bound circuit of the earth’s uncorsetting, each lap
a period, each race era, the season an eon retelling the whole history
of Gaia, Daytona representing when a spout of molten sun spinning out
to space, Pocono the o-so-hot July morning of the latter Holocene,
Homestead our fate by hook or crook, smashed to smithereens by a comet
or enveloped in the winter of collapsing suns. Pocono’s track is Time’s
three-cornered fool’s hat with us yokels wearing it to perfection,
scratching our balls and farting and looking about, so rapt in this year’s
flea-circus of human events that we miss giant shadows laughing overhead.
Tiny erodes of the old Appalachian flow
Amass the stands of primal Pocono.
Long Pond PA—where Pocono Speedway was screwed tight–is just down
the road from my dad’s forest esplumoir of standing stones, a sort
of playground of myth and mystery: A damn fine refuge from our fleeting
age, a place for walking out from human time into the world’s four
billion-year dreamtime. Such walks are healing, you know; healing
of all the ways our species has abused its privilege, trampling flowers and
marking off the land with rows of piled stone, clear-cutting wilderness
into geometries of what’s known and possessed, squatting for a
generation or two and then moving on, ever failing to wipe clean the
abuse, leaving the rolling patchwork of hills and mills in which the
next squatters may inflict their own damage, eking out what we
call a living (the environment greatly disagrees) while squandering
our loves. My dad’s greater love is for the land and his place resonates
with it, seeped in Presences which have been around for a long, long,
long long time, before the glaciers which lopped off the mountaintops,
before the Devonian sea covered all some 500 million years ago,
before the Moon which beams so hugely over my dark garden this morning
had lifted like a witch-charm from the uterus of the Earth. A short ways
down road from Long Pond, only four billion years or so.
Ladle brimming seas from all you’ll never know
From beneath the ancient soles of Pocono.
Yes well you’ll have to gander hard into the three-cornered hat of
Pocnoco’s track to imagine, must lest see, the old Titans who once could
barely fit their skulls into tri-oval schemes. Today it’s just one of the lesser
stops on the circuit, a snoozer race for fans who prefer the bunched horrors
of Darlington or the murderously fast lanes of Talladega. Besides, racin’
outside of the Southeast is always backassward– an opus contra naturuum—
plenty of locals with tramp stamps & hick-painted Ford F350s–but further
from the main than in N.C., outside the outside of race culture’s beer belly.
It’s “Bizarro World” as Seinfeld put it, everything upside down and back-
assed to our own, Folks from Philly screaming, “Go git ‘em Dale!” while
New Yorkers Bronx-jeer the Philly-stines. A cultural mayhem, dizzy
in the heat, imbued with a certain stock rancor fanned by the long track’s
slow pace, 2-1/2 mile laps counting off with wide-voweled numerals
to reach 500 miles. Denny Hamlin, who’s won there four times (one short
of the record), calls Pocono the most boring track on the circuit; or he did,
though recently NASCAR’s been fitting every driver with a trash-talk
muzzle on the sport, fining drivers for comments “detrimental to the sport,”
whatever that means. (It means that NASCAR can’t correct the spin its in,
no matter which way it furiously turns.) As a ghost of former glories,
Pocono’s a track where the veil is thin, as they say in mytho-poetic circles:
the cars go fast and turn left but still its all widdershins, a Polish Victory Lap
for losers, the whole sport devolving past its moonshine-runnin’ roots,
all those Cars of Tomorrow turning right as they make the turn at the south end
of the beach, flinging into the sea one by one where they bob and drift
and sink from sight. Pocono’s as dorky as the name, necessary but lame.
Corny and hoary as the devil’s own big toe:
Where NASCAR went goes Pocono.
Ghosts at Pocono, one living, one dead, one present: Bobby Allison kicking
Richard Petty’s ass three consecutive times at the track, Tim Richmond in
his dying glory pulling off the same. Now Denny Hamlin poised to three-peat,
if he can wake up from his current bad dream. Three three-winners winds the
charm up tight and augments something special I can only scout the margins
of in these tri-ovaling. salt meters. Maybe a third three-peat will uncork
a lost hooch bottle and pour its malt swelter neat, its booze brewed of
Appalachian moonshine (a blister of hootchie freeze) on nights, which fail
to cool the sweat-beaded brow of the Summer of 2010. A shot of that old
big night music, pre-Columban, even pre-Cambrian, enough to waken
that ole blue dragon who limns our liminal depths, spreading wings
as wide as Pennsylvania and belching corn-dog gas over our oil-spilt,
high-octane sport, igniting it to roar again hotter than the devil’s roadhouse
carouse beyond the last lights of your daily town. A triple shot of that
thrice-winning way might make of Pocono a greatness not seen on
the circuit yet this year, a saving grace, if you will, by means of an ancient
sauce’s swill. My dad loves 30-year-old Scotch from Glenmorangie,
but this is sterner stuff, up from the distillery in the footers of the Iona
abbey where dreams are brewed in a buried monk’s old skull
and the draught awakens pure pagan thrall—Manannan on his horse with
Hamlin’s No. 11 painted on its side, a fish-woman-wife astride the
saddle in front taking an ocean’s libido where it counts. Ghosts physic
what’s hurting worse at Pocono and in our ghastly hearts: A moony art.
Hurl Thor’s hammer into that moony golden glow,
Ignite boy Hamlin’s swirl once more at Pocono.
Well, ‘nuff said. As usual the day awaits with all the real life stuff—
endless work in the failing fields of the jaded American dream,
swinging a scythe across the weeds of time and culturing fake pearls
for real swine—Lindsay on ice and Congress with no balls to slice
the sick part from what’s left, leaving us to make do as we can
as the whole enterprise gets hauled out with the trash. Bleak I know
but like Pocono the only way out is through, proceeding through
present hells like Dante with his guide Virgil, never stopping through
the descending rounds & staying wrapped (rapt?) in the meters.
Pocono will be run (some day; rain’s forecast for Sunday) and then
it’s on to Watkins Glen and then to Michigan, the last of the Outward Bound
before the circuit heads for Bristol, mighty fallen Bristol, the third-to-
the-last race before the onset of the Chase. I committed to write an
entire season to paper of the current sort, 36 writings which compose
one “complicate amassing” (sorry, Wally Stevens) song, one whose
breadth and depth and magnitude is NASCAR’s, and the age’s, and
the strange-spooned handle this aging man has upon his words.
Pocono’s three weird turns was trope enough to make my way to here,
a sort of rope for pulling a fresher bucket from the well perhaps
(though the bubbies are the same, a sort of big-cup ostinato
frosting all my oval dreams. For the myth of Pocono’s sake, I’m
rooting here for Denny Hamlin; but I’m a fan, you know: And so
for my God’s sake, get Jimmie back into things, ole Pocono,
prevail upon your ancient deep fields to wild but good the wheeled
hooves of the No. 48. Mix hot moonshine with its gas. Whip Jimmie to haul ass.
Grant us all the ways that fast cars wavelike go,
Ball up and hurl the salted lanes of Pocono.
Will Hamlin prove Wynona’s beaux
Through the three weird turns of Pocono?
Delve the mysteries of the forest row
On the broom brunette’s Pocono.
Curve the sea into tri-oval flow,
Pour Your magnitude through Pocono.