the museum of americana

a literary review

If You Re-write Springsteen’s “Thunder Road” – Poetry by Jeff Kass

maybe the screen door nudges gently shut,
and Mary’s in blue jeans and so throat-hummingly
stunning, the Volkswagen four-door pulls up slow,
no screech, no smoke, and the guitar-player tells her,
wow, look how beautiful you are, you are emanating,
you are all a bullfrog longs for with that bark, won’t
you please let me indoors, we don’t need to go anywhere,
no open highways, just the two of us and some soup,
an old movie, we have here to go, right here
to stay, this root. Mary,

let’s be peaceful, and if you re-write the plane in Ohio
that killed Thurman Munson so it kills, say, no one,
and the boy at the baseball camp is not in Lakeville,
Massachusetts amongst Red Sox fans jeering on the day
the plane explodes, but in Westchester County, a dozen
miles from the Bronx and everybody’s ballcap interlocks
the N and the Y, and there’s appropriate gloom and no lull,
no long eighteen years of Andre Robertson and Jesse Barfield
and the boy grows taller than five-foot-six and three-quarters
and he never navigates the land of orthodontia and is never
told his arm’s only adequate and he fails calculus instead
of passing by the threads of his tongue – let’s talk lunch now –
what constitutes something good to eat. Obviously, a sandwich
can go either way. Chunks of salami are generally not preferable
to slices, nobody likes coleslaw, who would order it intentionally
who’s not already retired – and what about fighting those Red Sox
kids and getting punched below the eye and sitting awake all night,
on the top bunk, holding an aluminum bat like, come on, you fuckers?

That boy in Lakeville, stuck and dirty and tough and don’t-let-them-
see, he’s down now, hiding his head in the bathroom stall, walking
alone in the poison oak behind centerfield, but he will find Springsteen
soon, he will love the guts of it – Listen, Mary, you ain’t a beauty,
but, hey, you’re all right, and that’s all right with me tonight – what
a marvel. What a titanic blast of love. Mary, the lull, really, let’s not
be afraid of long empty years. Dave Righetti will throw a no-hitter
on July 4th against Boston. Even so. No one needs to be a dazzler, just
all right, just tonight. It’s said Thurman Munson was a hard-core racist.
Didn’t like Reggie Jackson. His uppity afro and fancy cars. Maybe it’s
wrong to speak truthfully of the dead. Especially when you don’t know
the truth. Especially, when the truth is the arm was always more than adequate.
Especially when Mary’s dress waved. The screen door slammed. The radio
played and she was a vision – a plane still floating, no flames – and she danced
across that porch and don’t we need to believe she was just all right, not a beauty,
nothing special? The catcher died. It was horrible. The boy felt the summer like
a fence across his chest. He struck out his older brother, made him look stupid
flailing at a mediocre curveball. He knew it would happen and he went ahead
and did it anyway.

~ ~ ~

Jeff Kass teaches Creative Writing and Tenth Grade English at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor MI and is the Literary Arts Director at Ann Arbor’s Teen Center The Neutral Zone. He is the author of the one-man poetry show, Wrestle the Great Fear, the chapbook poetry collection Invisible Staircase, the award-winning essay collection From the Front of the Room, and Knuckleheads, Independent Publishing’s Gold Medal Award-winning Best Short Fiction Collection of 2011.