Life's Wrecked Railings, Being a Ruthless Reviser, and Finding Light in the Barrenness: Lauren Camp on Her Poem "Rail Runner Express Crash on I-25 South of Santa Fe"
AWP 2016 was my sudden and massive induction into a community of poets I'd never read and knew I needed to be reading. I was drawn in this way to Lauren Camp for many reasons: her attunement to the world's problems, her love for bringing poetry to older and younger communities outside of the academic universe, and her belief in poetry as something that isn't static on the page but dynamic and carried by all. I returned home, read her collection The Dailiness two times through, and took months to follow up with her about an interview in part because there were so many poems in it that spoke to me, and with an immediacy that made me care. I'm looking forward to spending time with One Hundred Hungers, her latest book. And check out her radio work with Audio Saucepan, as well as her recording and discussion of Jack Gilbert's "Failing and Flying" at the Sundress Publications blog. – HLJ
My first reaction to this poem was to feel as if you’d just confessed something intensely private to me, as if over late-night drinks at the kitchen table.
That’s a wonderful reaction, and oh lord, why am I always confessing things? Lately, I’ve been writing about politics by writing about what I want to turn away from.
In my poems, I commingle analytical thought and optimism. I always want (somehow) to reach the beautiful—and if not a beautiful resolution, at least an emotionally responsive (and therefore beautiful) poem.
RAIL RUNNER EXPRESS CRASH ON I-25 SOUTH OF SANTA FE
One summer day, I witnessed the murder
of speed and money, a train
and armored car twined beneath a pockmarked sun.
I missed the tire squeal, but sat
In the nervous framework of vehicles
that bloomed down the Interstate. An ambulance
had been dispatched. We all gawked
as an EMT tended the scrapes and whispers
flung against the road – in this same threadbare spot
where a gasoline truck toppled, then exploded
several months before, metal
melting to its unsuspecting driver.
Even now I fear the whack, the severed bodies
swallowing thready air.
How much easier it is to be looking over
what has rolled over through light fragmented
on the underside of someone else’s car.
We continue driving forward, frantically strategizing
details and errands until we meet tomorrow’s headline.
But this is my bend in the road,
my wrecked railing.
A personality test defines me as lemon-sour
so I take the test again, changing answers.
This time it calls me blue
And I become a river of blue, flowing back and forth
on the Interstate in my beat-up Subaru,
never putting my compassion down,
never leaving the road with my imperfect eyes.