Originally published in Willow Springs 87
From the Author
Notes on “Spending the Night at the Blue Mountain Service Plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I Dreamt I Drove into a Tractor Trailer Just Past Mile Marker 202”
When I first wrote this poem it was called “Ghosts” and we had not yet partied like it’s 1999, and I buried it in my ‘duds’ file:
“You’ve been here forever, in the screech and roll of tightening curves, white lights and yellow lights, signs you no longer bother to read. /Some jazz, some classical. A woman calls about her cheatin’ boyfriend. A man thinks the President’s a crook. /Then the silence of deep country night. A small live thing that thinks it’s moving, thinks there are junctures and exits. /A semi turns its headlights off and on. You ease into the slow lane, and there’s the cop, tracking you with laser beans /invisible to the human eye. The ghosts of two deserters from the Civil War veer off the trail and flatten behind a ridge. Forget the job,/the apartment crowded with stuff. When you stop, you’ll be there. All you need is a little faith. But you’ll still be there, won’t you?”
I made the poem worse in the early oughts by changing the name to “Deserters” and adding “Your son, so she says,” instead of the line about the apartment (I don’t have kids). I somehow deleted my ‘duds’ file without noticing, found it a couple of years ago on an old flash drive, and revised the poem in about an hour.
I swerved into the service plaza on an impulse, driving from Provincetown to Pittsburgh, and dreamt I drove into a tractor trailer
Notes on “Ice Walking, Columbia Ice Field, Jasper National Park, Alberta”
This was called “Blue Ice, Blue Fractals” at first, and I have no idea why. Later I read an article about a couple that went hiking in the above location in the dead of winter, for their wedding anniversary, I think, and it was with great delight that I read the account to my wife, who is more of a spa-and-bubble bath type.
Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.
We don’t have a “W” in Turkish, so my cat’s name here is Vookie Voo. I’m waiting out COVID in Antalya, where the numbers are not too bad, and even street cats and street dogs have healthcare. It’s true. There are municipal vets to catch-neuter/splay-and release, but you can bring a sick or wounded animal in and they’ll take care of it. If you can’t bring the animal in yourself, there’s an “ambulance” that will come and get it. The city leaves food for the strays and they have cat houses for the cats, which are these cat jungle gyms enclosed by wire so only cats can get through. Others are allowed into the basements of apartment buildings, and of course people feed them, and it’s a rare shop owner that won’t allow a dog to hang out under the awning or bring out a bowl of water in the summer.
About Alpay Ulku
Alpay’s book of poems is Meteorology (BOA Editions) and the manuscript making the rounds is Mercator.
He was a First and Second Year Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and has received residencies from the Millay Colony and the Wurlitzer Foundation and grants from the Iowa Arts Council and the Illinois Arts Council. He graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
His work has appeared in journals such as Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, AGNI, and the American Poetry Review. His explication of Yeats’s “The Second Coming” was a Poets’ Pick prose feature on Poetry Daily, and Slate magazine selected one of his poems for their “Best Valentine’s Day Poems” feature.
Alpay splits his time between Chicago, where he works as a Business Analyst and Senior Technical Writer on a project basis for part of the year, and the Turkish resort city of Antalya.
His website is www.alpayulku.com.