“Threading North and South” by Matthew Murrey

Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2017: Editor’s Choice


Hwy 41 by Debbie McAfee

Image: “Hwy 41” by Debbie McAfee. “Threading North and South” was written by Matthew Murrey for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2017, and selected as the Editor’s Choice winner.

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Matthew Murrey


31 frayed my nerves pulling
over in the middle of nowhere
Michigan every thirty miles to pour
water into the hot, leaky radiator.

45 took us south into ninety degrees
of July and a battlefield nearby
before we slipped like wounded
ghosts into Mississippi for the night.

17 was awfully pretty skirting
the river as it wound its way
from the city where I grew up
to my first home away from home.
And I never moved back.

In my twenties I headed north
and I’ll never forget my first trip
south on 41 with the oceanic
lake to my left and the giant teeth
of sky scrapers ahead. I grinned
like a kid seeing mountains
or snow for the first time.

I love the blocked, black
numbers on white shields;
they conjure up slowing down—
tobacco sheds, red bricks, a river,
a bean field, intersections and signs:
Open, Closed, Vacancy.

Sometimes it’s fences to the west,
or waking up to see what the clouds
are up to and how many miles are left.
Sometimes it’s speeding to get there
before nightfall, and hoping—that dark
or not—the lights will be on as they should be.

Ekphrastic Challenge, February 2017
Editor’s Choice

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Comment from the editor on this selection: “A road trip embroidery deserves a road trip poem, and Matthew Murrey delivered the mood—the lonely, dull, excited, monotony of highway travel. I also appreciated how the thread metaphor only appears in the title, giving the poem an extra unspoken layer to ponder.”

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