Some people die and receive two grave sites;
one in a cemetery and the other a white cross on the edge of the road.
There are dozens of these markers paced along the great American highways.
Each cross signifies an end for someone who once had driven the same route.
The stories vary: a drunk, heavy rain, faulty mechanics, a texting teenager, suicide and so on.
The result are these DIY landmarks, fatefully placed.
Some crosses stand silently white with no name or markings, others are improvised
decorative shrines, anchored by weathered polaroids, framed by decayed flowers.
A driver barely has time to imagine what went wrong for the memorialized when driving 80
mph between home and work...eyes land on a white cross and then a Chick-Fil-A billboard,
an army recruitment sign.....creating a kaleidoscope effect where hunger meets sorrow.
In the U.S. a grave is meant to be fixed, death a single act.
These amorphous shrines remind us that the living must upkeep the markers
left for the dead in order for the dead to live as memory.
The rain may carry a photo from a cross to a stream while blurring written memorials
but the words will be rewritten, the photo replaced,
as long as a member of the living will tend to it.
There is no bardo quite like the great American highway.
A platform where freedom can only be felt while in a state of flux.
There may not be much of a difference trudging
between states of consciousness and crossing a state line
but regardless, there are those who do not make it.
Sometimes I run with my eyes closed to avoid sighting the flag
which glorifies the once incarnation of my home state as slave grounds.
Usually, this results in a momentary blindness but at times the presence of this flag
is so relentless that I am like a child holding its breath while being driven through a tunnel
who realizes that there is no light approaching.
A flag, itself can not hurt anyone though it can act as a placeholder for violence;
a future violence or that of a violence already enacted.
Bumper Stickers, truck stop t-shirts and billboards all boast contorted patriotisms along the
U.S. highways. These souvenirs are made in factories where one flag could have just as easily
been dyed a different set of color to represent yet another shape of the globe, just as it’s
materials could have been turned to a burka, a priest’s cloak, a blanket, a dress.
The other flag of the U.S. highway is the improvised SOS.
If a driver finds that their car will drive no further, they tie a white material to the rearview
mirror, the antenna, the front windshield or wherever else it can be seen by an authority who
could snatch the car away.
It is not inherent that a driver will have a white material readily available, so they improvise.
Sometimes removing a sock, cutting it so it unfolds to become flag-like or they take the shirt
off of their back, tearing it in two, treating the car antenna as a flimsy flagpole.
From there, the driver becomes the walker, veering on foot, shirtless and carless, up the exit
There is a story for each of these abandoned vehicles.
There was the performance of creating the white flag, the disappearance of the driver and
finally, the ticking clock, the anticipation of the driver’s return.
Flags like money are a material usually made to stand in allegiance to a country.
An invented tool used to declare dominance over another.
I find it hard to stand in allegiance to any flag but I will salute the torn t-shirt
that represents a bond to a machine that provides a restless soul with the ability to wander.