"Tuggin'"

"Tuggin'"

"Tuggin'"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Jan. 5 2010 7:22 AM

"Tuggin' "

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear  Matt W. Miller read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.
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Whenever a nor'easter dumped
snow all night on top of town,
there'd be no one in the streets
except slowgroaning plows
and us, in pick ups, low-gearing
over uncleared roads and lots,
low-lifed cases of beer sliding
in the bed between our boots
as we watched whosever turn
it was get dragged through drifts
from fiftyfeet of rope tied around
the trailer hitch. Chancing
speed bumps and potholes,
you'd hold on as the truck sped
and turned, as your body rolled
and skipped along streets no longer
nameable. Legs flailed, cold and
soggy. Teeth gritted a breath
above asphalt while your buddies
hooted in the back of the truck,
icy cans in their gloved hands,
lips swollen with road rash
and Skoal. The driver, always next
to go, would open it up to buck
you. He'd hard cut the wheel,
swinging you from one buried
curb to another. Or he'd just crush
down on the brakes. You'd slide
toward slack and the shine
of tail lights and fender, skidding
almost under the black rusted
axles and manifolds, rolling
away in time from a skull pop
of tires, all because boys in winter
won't suffer death. Then the steel-
hearted tug as the truck started up
again, as your shoulders yanked
to just short of snapping. And if
you held on, your time was up
as the driver fishtailed and cast
you across the covered concrete
to bury you in a six foot bank
of snow, everyone cackling, blood
electric, all the pieces of your face
inches away from the hydrant
you wouldn't see till spring.

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Matt W. Miller's first book of poems is Cameo Diner. A former Wallace Stegner fellow, he teaches English and coaches football at Phillips Exeter Academy.