under the big black sun
The Have Nots
by Sarah Carleton

It was the summer we played that X song
from New York to Virginia

and all the way back, Blue Ridge to Finger Lakes,
highway zooming through the bass lines,

exits flashing between riffs,
you and I wailing out words, ready for the moment

E-minor to B no longer made our skin hum
—which never came—foot heavy on the gas pedal

when percussive joy struck
whoever was driving while the other person

stared out the window at the bittersweet world,
letting pun-laden bar names and signs for Scranton

patch into a single story
of two twenty-somethings coursing through decade

after decade till today, while I stir
the tomato sauce and listen

to you on the couch, figuring out the chords,
our hearts beat road trip.


NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When my husband and I were living in New York State, we used to drive south several times a year for fiddlers’ conventions. It was usually about a 12-hour trip, and we’d keep ourselves going with whatever cassette tape we were most stuck on at the time. Particular road trips and music merge in my memory; when I hear “The Have Nots,” by the band X (from their 1982 album Under the Big Black Sun), I picture a certain stretch of Rt. 81.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Carleton writes, edits, plays the banjo, and raises her son in Tampa, Florida. Her poems have appeared in Houseboat, Burning Word Literary Journal, Avatar Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Bijou Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Shark Reef, Wild Violet Magazine, The Binnacle, The Homestead Review and Cider Press Review. She also has work upcoming in Nimrod and Chattahoochee Review.

PHOTO: The author in France, early 90s.