Ryan Harper

On The Billy Graham Freeway

(One has precious
little assurance
in a rented vehicle)
Just as I am

arriving in Asheville
the engine starts going
all to hell 
on me.  Up here

everything is in between
big smoky other things;
Thus I grow disoriented.  Thus

I grow anxious to right
the hot matter under 
my hood:  who has lodged
here in these

black mountains?
Chuck Olson?  Or was it 
Chuck Colson? It is 
not easy to know 

the traceries—so little
between them 
each save the proclamation: 

the will 
to change, eternal conversion,
the breath—the consecrated
breath hot 

down the slope
of my spine
even now I feel
(how these men 

have driven me 
to my end) Frantic as the dash-
board goes red
I find myself

addressing the great evangelist: 
I know it is not 
your typical method, holy
man of Pisgah, but I ask

for your intercession.  Incline 
that granite brow deep and wide
toward whatever 
messiah you find lodged in 

your black mountains.  
Tell him you know 
a lone driver taking your road
who requires assistance.  Tell 

him to look for a white coupe,
Texas plates (tell him it is a rental) Tell him
the driver, as always, did not opt for insurance. 


Ryan Harper lives in Greenville, South Carolina. Some of his recent work has appeared in Berkeley Poetry Review, Chaffin Journal, Broad River Review, Killing the Buddha, and elsewhere. His poetry chapbook, Memphis Left at Cairo, is available through Finishing Line Press, and his ethnography of contemporary southern gospel music is forthcoming from the University Press of Mississippi.


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