KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Prose Poem: 390 words [R]

Driving with Robert

by Carolyn Miller

I was driving Robert downtown to pick up his new glasses. We were in my gray Honda with its rusted-out chassis and its one black Taiwanese bumper. We were talking about a book Robert was reading on particle physics and the expanding universe. It was after he’d stopped taking AZT, but before he got so sick he couldn’t take the bus or walk more than a few blocks. “So, what do you believe?” he asked. “Well, I believe we’re all part of one great consciousness,” I said, amazed that someone had asked me. We were driving through the Western Addition, past barbecue joints and the Church of St. John Coltrane and filling stations and tall wooden houses with blistered paint. Robert looked at me as if I’d just given him a wonderful gift. “That’s what I believe, too!” he said. “And I believe that consciousness is evolving all the time.” “That’s what I believe, too!” I said. “And I believe that every creative thing we do, every poem we write or painting we paint or even every poem we read or painting we look at, somehow adds to that consciousness.” “Me too!” said Robert. “And I think every good thing and every kind thing we do adds to it, too.” His hair, which had always been luxuriantly thick, was now cropped close to his head, like that of a prisoner, or an initiate.

We drove down Haight Street, past pizza parlors and head shops and used clothing stores and corner liquor stores. The fine fallen dust of the universe lay over everything. The streets were full of people, each one part of the stream of longing. The city expanded and contracted like a great heart. “What do you think happens to us when we die?” Robert said. He was bone thin then, though still tall, of course. He didn’t look like his old handsome self anymore, but he still had his full voice and his deep, rumbling laugh. “I think we become part of the consciousness, in some way...but I’m not sure we keep any of our individual being,” I said. “I don’t know either,” he said. I kept on driving. Outside the dirty car windows, the world rushed on. Nothing could stop it, or time’s flooded river, or the fire all of us were burning in.

— Previously published in Perigee (Issue 25, 2009); republished here by author’s permission

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