"Two for the Montrose Drive-In"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 24 2006 7:14 AM

"Two for the Montrose Drive-In"

Click here to listen to Rita Dove read this poem.

1. Tupperware

Three days before it was pick-up-and-scrub,
the tops of doorjambs wiped clean
for white gloves come to test disarray.

Dad packed up the kids and fled
the cheddar cubes, plastic forks suspended
in Jell-O—that was judgment, ambrosia and trident—

oh, but it was delicious
at the Drive-in, sliding in pajamas down
into the pit, waking

just in time to see
great Pharaoh drowned
and Charlton Heston rosy

in his holy rags ... now, that
was a good story, that
kept us awake

until the end credits, the moon
huge as it wandered down
the black gullet of avenue,

bright eye swallowing
the windshield. ... We made it
home to the ruins

of the feast: crustless sandwiches
smelling faintly of ocean, platoons
of celery, mints and dip (they always

finished the cake), a soggy lemon
crescent lolling in the red bottom
of the drained punch bowl,

and the house a mess. We ate like kings for days.

2. Charlton Heston's Holy Rags

Our lucky man puts in his first appearance.
We cheer, ski the front seat's vinyl
into the plushy pit beneath the dash.

Just as sure as we're missing the chalky mints
discretely placed between the moistened lips
of the Reverend Sisters of the Eastern Star,

he'll save us from plopping frogs or locusts,
clouds of hissing told-you-sos
invading bed or pajama cuff.

This time around, though, he's neither
good nor wise: He tromps palatial corridors,
a smooth-cheeked boy in Roman bronze,

all greed and good looks.
No green smoke wiggling over a host of snakes
ready to be turned into walking sticks;

instead, he lifts his hand and an urn,
kicked, stutters across the tiles:
The car speaker crackles scorn.

What brand of righteousness is this? Squeamish,
we stuff our mouths with more buttered corn
and count the things gone wrong—

there's a sister rotting away in a cave,
too many sweaty people being whipped,
that skinny stranger's burning gaze ...

and then, just when we begin to doubt him,
we watch as doubt struggles up to crouch
inside his own baby blues. Oh,

now he rises to his chiseled best,
takes redemption's arrow
deep into his manly chest

as rain comes down in torrents,
lightning timed to tell each flash of news
(the rock rolled back, the lepers' new-washed skin),

and through it all—the tears, the flood,
Thy Kingdom Come in gold
and cobalt streaks—he stands aglow

with Blessedness, with ... could it be
remorse? Whatever for?—and in
an instant, he suddenly

grows old.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

The U.S. Is So, So Far Behind Europe on Clean Energy

Even if You Don’t Like Batman, You Might Like Gotham

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

A Woman Who Escaped the Extreme Babymaking Christian Fundamentalism of Quiverfull

Nobody Knows How Many Gay Married Couples Live in America—Not Even the Census Bureau

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 22 2014 6:30 PM What Does It Mean to Be an American? Ted Cruz and Scott Brown think it’s about ideology. It’s really about culture.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 22 2014 5:38 PM Apple Won't Shut Down Beats Music After All (But Will Probably Rename It)
  Life
Outward
Sept. 22 2014 4:45 PM Why Can’t the Census Count Gay Couples Accurately?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 22 2014 7:46 PM Azealia Banks’ New Single Is Her Best in Years
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 6:27 PM Should We All Be Learning How to Type in Virtual Reality?
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 22 2014 4:34 PM Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.