There is a no-name gas station
on the north end of town,
11.9 miles out of the way,
out past the corner where
John Roe sits all day in the sun,
spits tobacco and sells onions
and oranges out of the back
of his rust red pick up truck.
There are bars on the station’s windows
and jars of pickled eggs on the counter,
right beside herbal male enhancement pills
and crack pipe roses. Pork rinds.
Refrigerator egg salad sandwiches
reserved for the brave or foolish.
There’s an old condom machine
in the men’s room, two feet to the left
of the pocket knife graffiti that says
JESUS SAVES and KKK 4 LIFE.
Half a roll of paper towels, no soap,
and the faucet just trickles,
no matter how the handle is set.
The attendant has a face
like the inside of a cigarette.
She runs a hand through
brown grease pit hair,
charges 5 cents more per gallon
than anywhere else nearby,
and she never says a word.
There’s no good reason to come here.
There are better gas stations,
closer, cleaner, less treacherous,
but you ought to know
that every time the needle
on my fuel gauge leans towards E,
I drive up, pull in past the jagged potholes
that get deeper every month,
to suck on hot petroleum fumes
and top off my tank,
listen to standard unleaded
slosh down rubber hose,
and to enjoy, for a brief moment,
that I am a little nearer —
that for these few minutes,
you are 366 miles away.
You are only 366 miles away.
This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.