Eugene and Johnny Go Boating

That car doesn’t leave the driveway but she’s in it.
— Chester Ashbery

with a destination or just destiny, inclining with wind
of what’s next up around bend or bridge above
river or creek or crick or tributary running to
Hudson or Red Hook, Catskill or Claverack,
Fish and Game Road where the hunting club holds parties

thirty years of autumn on the Parkway, spring on the Interstate,
summer on 66, black ice on Route 9,
to farm stand and farm store and way upstate, holy
old family farm and its orchardland, over and back to Lee,
to Lenox, to Tanglewood, to Amherst in smoky November,
and always again returning to the city
with stories as trophies or new trophies and their stories
tropes and true stories, news of whose atrocious restorations
changed a view we’d recognized for decades
music from QXR from AMC from MHT
and then from tape and then from compact disc
music becomes road and water, car wheels hydroplane
upon it, frictionless conversation of where should we
go now, what’s for dinner, what happened Saturday, where
should we go tomorrow, do you have the list
they love short sleeve cotton shirts and chinos they
wear the same size they’re both small town and city
they grew up near bodies of water they are magicians
and men of their word they read books and cards and
laugh at intertitles billboards roadsigns headlines ads
and at old radio, Bob and Ray, and whole plots of Great
Gildersleeves, plots of operas (Pelleas et Melisande), soap operas
(Twin Peaks), names of actors long forgotten by all except
one-time Whiz Kids, who won Oscars, who should have,
what’s the best movie in town, what’s at Upstate, what’s in Chatham
Johnny picks up on what Gene drops, Eugene picks up lines
from John, windshield an unmoving frame around
motion of landscape, commotion of traffic, emotional weather
or thunderstorms like standing right underneath Kaaterskill Falls
as spring thaw bursts down-mountain
somewhere a friend’s house was, somewhere an accident off
this exit just last weekend, somewhere we drove by last time and missed
the turn-off, or found the restaurant or roadside stand with hanging
pots or apples, the first of the berries or last of the
pumpkins at Love Farm or Mrs. Shortcake’s or Hotaling’s
and always another party where someone met someone,
do you remember? We met them Sunday, on Warren Street,
antiquing: they bought that chair. The lawnmower circles stonework
walls, cicadas sing to twilight, there are brown paper bags
from the Book Barn in the trunk of the blue Dodge Aries
box of fresh tomatoes on the floor in the old white Nova
records and papers from storage to storage, in back of the Odyssey
in the midnight Accord, a black walking-stick and
a small sack of Belgian chocolate; the silver Civic’s
passenger seat slung back at a generous angle
while a Piano Concerto in G Major enters a stretch of rapids.
“This isn’t the one-handed one Ravel wrote for Paul Wittgenstein,” says John;
at this point, in fact, it sounds like you might need three.
Then as phlox and syringa banks flash by, we are out on the lake.
“This is a nice part of this concerto.” Driving near Angel Hill
sharing experience, fresh intention, discoveries or
decisions, in momentum’s for-granted continuum,
won’t you come with us? There’s room for another, if
I’m in back: David or Joe, sometimes Trevor
and, once upon a time, Aladar, Jimmy, Pierre
and they’re off, to see patterns in Adams or Aunt Janet in
Elmira, to read in Toronto, snag kudos from Alma Mater,
inspect the new cartoon museum or gilded-age mansion just regilded,
for Le Misanthrope in the theater church in Stockbridge,
for friends reading poems at the Spencertown Academy, also a church
for Shakespeare at the Mount, or a Carter premier — he is just one hundred —
for Blue Stores, for Rhinebeck Fairgrounds, for Almar’s
meats, for Hawthorne Valley, for Otto’s in Germantown’s BLT at a
tablette by the window, for smoked goose from the Kingston market —
tonight’s sauerkraut casserole baked past eleven —
out on the island for Jane and Joe, for Larry’s tree lawn-sculptures,
dinner with Marc and Susan, Anne, to see new work by Darragh
way up Maine for Bob and Penelope, over to visit Michael,
through quiet New England woods to the antique house of a Deerfield classmate
in France for that Pompidou Centre to-do; why not Cabourg to see Balbec?
Like Helen, who always jumped first in the Buick when anyone was driving
they’re both “great goers,” they started to leave home early, they’re still going
they have gigs and tickets, appointments, invitations, news of wonders — of
hundreds of miniscule wonders of the western world, like children
to rescue from history by wandering, to bring riding
and both of them love to talk and they both love to listen
unbeholden, each beholds the other with such graceful
sheer irritationlessness, like a blue canoe on a green summer
river, as memory frozen in attitude drifts by like printed paper
and futures ripple outward in knowable, unknowable renewal