out of town, past the factories in the night
the railroad trestle spanned.
I'm going back to Durham to the school
but I can't stop feeling
that I'm lost somehow.
When I came to the traffic circle,
dodging the angry headlights,
I crossed to the exit led to the Durham Road,
and thumbed a beat-up Vw, finally.
I jumps in the passenger door.
There is nobody
but the man driving inside.
Stepping on it, pulling back out,
he says, “Where you going?”
His dark face glimmered,
wrestling with the shadows passing.
But his voice had a bright echo.
I had a time telling where I was goin:
my heart didn't want my tongue to.
Then he says, “I'm going down this road,
but I'm tired of driving. Wish
I could find somebody'd help me
to drive. How'd you like to?”
I told him I would but where I was goin
was only a little way.
And he said, “I don't know where I'm goin.
What's goin on there?”
I said I didn't know, which I truly didn't.
He laughed and says, “I don't know how much farther
I can go.”
The man was driving the fast lane.
At the last exit
before the interstate,
he let me out.
That was when I had to walk
because now I was covered
in the darkness on the road.
It curved right down
a hill through the trees
and beyond the bend came out
at the river where there was a bridge
I started to cross.
The river was swollen.
The currents swirled around the buttresses.
The music of a dark light was dragging me in.
I grabbed the rail.
Man, I was just hanging on.
Man, them currents sang to me.
A car pulls over and stops.
Somebody got out, I don't know who,
a teacher at the school.
He spoke to me kindly,
“Come with me. I'll give you a lift.”
Too often in my life I did what I was told.
He took me down the road
but I knew he would never
go farther than where he lived.
“You shouldn't stand there in the dark,” he says.
I told him I wasn't happy.
It was the simplest way I could put it.
“I'm sorry,” he says, “but you have to do your best
the short time you have on this earth.
You have to work hard.”
“But how can I know where I am going,” I says,
“until I get there?”
“There are principles,” he says.
I don't know; I got mad.
“What principles,” I says. “Prove it.”
“It is necessary,” he says.
He left me off where he lived,
which was what I figured.
But it was just a short walk to school.
The old halls were nothin,
they didn't have nothin to say to me.
But the roads.
They were like rivers.
They curved through the mountains
and across the plains
toward the light glowing
on the distant rim.