Richard Siken

road music


The eye stretches to the horizon and then must continue up. 

                                                                               Anything past the horizon 

            is invisible, it can only be imagined. You want to see the future but 

you only see the sky. Fluffy clouds. 

                                                         Look-white fluffy clouds.

                              Looking back is easy for a while and then looking back gets 

murky. There is the road, and there is the story of where the road goes,

      which is only a story, 

and then there is more road, the roar of the freeway, the roar of the crowd, 

      the roar of the city sheening across the city.

                                                                                  There should be a place. 

At the rest stop, in the restaurant, the overpass, the water's edge…

            There should be a place where we are more than just a narrative.


He was not dead yet, not exactly-

      parts of him were dead already, certainly other parts were still only waiting

for something to happen, something grand, but it isn't 

                                                                                       always about me, 

he keeps saying, though he's talking about the only heart he knows-

      boys on the bed, strange sheets, 

                                                        the way the phone rings in the other room 

like that, the way it has of ringing ringing…

Inside his head a little music, inside his head a little hum. What he remembers 

      doesn't make any sense. What he remembers has nothing to do 

                                                                                                         with us, 

or does it? All this circling around inside the darkened rooms inside 

                                                         those dreams of ours that never get used.


He was not dead yet, still though, it isn't about him-

            can't articulate what it is he feels or needs, doesn't know 

which parts to move or 

                                       which ones stack on top of all the other ones. But still,

we wanted the antidote, the answer to the mystery, the problem

      solved. All of us trying 

to find our way in again, trying to bash in his head to get to the candy.

      The small dark rooms inside our heads 

still dark, still small- 

                   sheets over chairs, bulbs blown, the windows now open, now shut. 

      He could build a city. Has a certain capacity. There's a niche in his chest 

where a heart would fit perfectly 

            and the thinks if he could just maneuver one into place- 

                                                                                        well then, game over.


You wonder what he's thinking when he shivers like that.

                                                          What can you tell me, what could you possibly

tell me? Sure, it's good to feel things, and if it hurts, we're doing it 

      to ourselves, or so the saying goes, but there should be a different music here,

there should be a stand-in.

      Something better, something more. There should be just one safe place 

                                                                        in the world, I mean 

this world, I'm still talking about this world. People get hurt here. People fall down 

      and stay down and I don't like the way 

the song goes. 

                          You, the moon. You, the road. You, the little flowers 

by the side of the road. You keep singing along to that song I hate. Stop singing.


Suppose for a moment that the heart has two heads, 

                                 that the heart has been chained and dunked in a glass booth 

     filled with river water. 

The heart is monologing about hesitation and fulfillment 

                                          while behind the red brocade the heart is drowning.

Can the heart escape? Does love even care? Should we stand here

                                                                                        or jump in the water?

Sure, he put himself in the box, but he wouldn't have if we weren't watching. 

      This stunt, this heroic display of showmanship for the home team-

He puts himself in the box 

            and there's nothing in the box but him, him and maybe hope.

                                Snow falls on the water as we dump the booth in the bay.

            Suppose for a moment we are crowded around a pier, 

waiting for something to ripple the water. 

                          We believe in you. There is no danger. It is not getting dark, 

                                                                                        we want to say.