NASCAR, poem by Perry Higman

NASCAR (Penn­syl­va­nia 500  at POCONO, July, 1998)

To:   Gov­er­nor Tom  Ridge of Penn­syl­va­nia, giv­ing  a guest politician's dull monot­o­ne deliv­ery of the com­mand, "Gen­tle­men, — start — your  —  engines," at the start ofthe Penn­syl­va­nia 500  at Pocono –

From:   the young  freck­le-shoul­dered man on my right, wear­ing an old black Dar­rell  Wal­trip tank top, hold­ing his sec­ond  half-quart of Bud –

"He just doesn't fuck­ing get it, does he."



It's a gath­er­ing of Amer­i­cans from New York,

Boston, Rochester and

the South,

an uncount­able crowd

of over one hun­dred  thou­sand, come to celebrate

the thrill of free­dom we feel in work­ing, sav­ing up

for a car,

set­tling into the seat and sens­ing the weight of dri­ving  a steady 70, tank after tank of gas, across the country

on the Eisenhower

Inter­state System.



We come in a broth­er­hood and sisterhood

of things we know how to use

every  day –


tobac­co, beer, fur­ni­ture, guns, can­dy, pop

and soap –

gas, oil, Ford, Pon­ti­ac, and Chevrolet.



And we come to worship

our gods

of the open road — Dick, Dar­rell, Jeff, Dale, John, Bill, Jim­mie and Rusty, Ken­ny and Mike — who, like us,

have the same names,

and who, like us,

come from home­towns no one

out­side the fam­i­ly has ever heard of –

Chemu­ng, Kan­napo­lis, Huey­town, Batesville, Owens­boro,  Pitts­boro, Spanaway, Dawsonville,

Fen­ton and Randleman.



We come

in a uni­form of caps, and T‑shirts

to sing

with the soul

of the full-bod­ied Amer­i­can car­bu­rat­ed V8, and to hoist

our rebel civilization

up to the whole world's broad sky,


and we flip the fin­ger to sissy



and to those who

just don't under­stand the tradition

of out­run­ning the law.



We come to cel­e­brate our country's ways — R and D in a smudged spi­ral notebook,

Ter­ry  and Bobby's proud mother

sign­ing her auto­graph in the pits,

and men

great enough

to thank the Lord for winning

a race and then dance destruction

into the roof

their car.



NASCAR rac­ing

is the com­mon  poet­ry of hard­work­ing America's

indus­tri­al and cor­po­rate roar, that lets

each of us live the tin­gling thrill of being one

in a riv­er of many, swirling around togeth­er with deaf­en­ing power.


I have led a long, charmed life – par­ents who gave me free­dom and a love for wide open spaces, a won­der­ful job where they let me do what I want­ed as long as I did it well, good grown-up kids I keep learn­ing from, a fine wife and a few good friends who've helped me become me through many sad and hap­py times.

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One Response to NASCAR, poem by Perry Higman

  1. ginabobina says:

    Love this! Print­ing it & stick­ing it on the fridge. "Thank the Lord for winning
    a race and then dance destruction
    into the roof
    their car." — Yah!!

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