Getting Gas in Barstow, California: Poetry

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A markerBarstow, ca -
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This is a narrative poem that was first published in the September 19th, 2012 edition of the cyber lit mag, The Crisis Chronicles. It was inspired by images and memories of my past. I've done a lot of traveling, both on my own and with my family. This story is not inspired by a specific event, but it could easily be any person, place or gas station one would come across on travels across the vast United States.

Barstow is a desert community in South Eastern/Central California. It's one of the last bastions of civilization along I-15 before the long trek through the desert towards Las Vegas, Nevada and beyond. I used to travel it frequently when I lived in Las Vegas to visit my ex wife's family in Orange County, California.

The poem is not perfect-- the adverb in the last stanza bothers me. But, I have a rule. Once it's appeared in a literary magazine, it's done. I would go insane in my perfectionism otherwise. So it's done and I will include it in my next poetry collection.

This poem was also inspired by the brilliant Elizabeth Bishop and her poem Filling Station. She made an ugly gas station Beautiful;. I admire her for that.

Enjoy the poem and be sure to drop by the Crisis Chronicles. They're good people.

Do you like this poem?

Then check out my poetry book,Digging to China, released by Sweatshoppe Publications. This poem is in it, along with fifty others. Signed copies are available through Sweatshoppe Publications. It's also available on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

Getting Gas in Barstow, California


by Justin W. Price

There’s a full service gas station
just east of Barstow, California. I’m taking
my brand new Dodge Charger for a trip
to Las Vegas. It still bears temporary tags.
It’s blood, blood red
with a white racing stripe running all along it.

I pull in and see the gas station attendant.
He’s a baked loaf of bread, cooked
well past the point of pleasant crunchiness.
He’s wearing blue coveralls and a salty beard.
He approaches my car.

His cratered lips speak
in a sandpaper voice. Fill ‘er up?

Twenty. I pull out a crisp
bill. His curled black fingers take it,
crumble it, into his shirt pocket. He smiles
Nice car, he says.
His oily brown skin dirties my hood
when he leans against it. He squints
and puts a cracked,
oil stained boot
on the curb and inserts the nozzle
into my gas tank.

His musty hair stumbles
in the dry Mojave wind. There’s a thin
tan line on his left ring finger. His eyes
are dried out red caverns. He spits brown
and sticky chew, sucking some of it
back in. It smells like gasoline
and menthol cigarettes.

Where ya headed?
Home.

He nods sadly and, as I drive away,
he waves.


*****



Thanks for Reading.

A FREELANCE WRITER, HONORS STUDENT AND GOVER PRIZE FINALIST, JUSTIN W. PRICE (AKA, PDXKARAOKEGUY)IS A POET, SHORT STORY, BIOGRAPHY AND HUMOR WRITER. HIS POETRY COLLECTION,DIGGING TO CHINA, WAS RELEASED FEBRUARY 2ND, 2013 BY SWEATSHOPPE PUBLICATIONS AND IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM, BARNES AND NOBLE AND THROUGH YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER.

HIS WORK is also FEATURED IN BEST NEW FICTION (2014 EDITION), AND HAS APPEARED PREVIOUSLY IN THE RUSTY NAIL, EFICTION, THE CRISIS CHRONICLES, THE HELLROARING REVIEW, BURNINGWORD, SEE SPOT RUN AND THE BELLWETHER REVIEW. HE previously SERVEd AS MANAGING EDITOR OF EPOETRY MAGAZINE AND THE BRIDGE ONLINE NEWSPAPER.

HE WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER, EDITOR, AND GHOST WRITER, AND IS WORKING TOWARDS HIS PH.D. HE LIVES IN A SUBURB OF PORTLAND, OREGON WITH HIS WIFE, ANDREA, THEIR LABRADOODLE, BELLA, and a Shpoo, SAUVEE AND BLACK MOOR GOLDFISH, HOWARD WOLOWITZ.

PLEASE VISIT HIS PROFILE PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION. THANKS!


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Comments 26 comments

PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Vellur. I'm pleased you enjoyed this!


Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

I like your poem and yes is that a whiff of petrol I smell and the winds of the Mojave in every word. Enjoyed reading!!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Oceansider... that seems like the perfect state of Barstow... just passing through. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Stessily. I appreciate your interpretation of my annoyance with adverbs. LOL.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Till... but I am a bit of a perfectionist. In the words of Adrian monk, "it's a blessing and a curse"


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Aurelio. It's certainly an odd little duck of a place.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Gyspy... Barstow would be a great setting for a horror novel, so 'm not surprised!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks so much Ruchira!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks Sommer!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Oh, thanks Dancing Water. That's what I always seek to do. Glad I succeeded here!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

mhatter... there's a really good diner right in Barstow that I used to frequent. It's the last good eats between Riverside and Vegas.


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

I'm glad you enjoyed this, Frank!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks a lot Audrey!


PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

PDXKaraokeGuy 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Jim, thanks a lot. I haven't been there in years, but I remember the scenes and the people vividly.


oceansider 4 years ago

I like your poem and could picture just what this man at the gas station looked like from your description of him.....and, I too have stopped in Barstow on the way to Las Vegas....I guess that's all most people do in Barstow....stop on the way to somewhere else!

Very well done.....voting this up, funny, interesting.


stessily 4 years ago

Justin, Congratulations on publishing! Many more of them, too!

The title is inviting, and the poem conjures up a panoply of images.

Not happy with "sadly"? An adverb of two syllables feels right here; three syllables might overwhelm the stark effectiveness of the sentence. A weak nod of the head seems congruent with his persona. What does "home" mean to him? He might be thinking about that.

Appreciatively, Stessily


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

I've never been to Barstow but your introduction and poem takes me there. Old timers will remember this type of attendant very well, not too many out there anymore....no need to be such a perfectionist, your poems are great and we love reading them.

Voted up and awesome.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

Having filled up in Barstow, your poem evokes the activity and the place very well. Voting this Up and Beautiful.


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up. Fantastic. You conjured up some fantastic images of the gas station and Barstow. I remember that Barstow was mentioned in a horror novel but forgot which. Passing this on. Great pic.


Ruchira profile image

Ruchira 4 years ago from United States

Justin, this was such a vivid read with good expressions of the guy filling in the gas for ya.

voted up as interesting


SommerDalton profile image

SommerDalton 4 years ago

Driven that road so many times ha ha voted up!!


Dancing Water profile image

Dancing Water 4 years ago

Wow, I've seen this guy: in real life, in movies, in my consciousness! He lurks beneath our smooth veneer. In other words, we could be him in a New York minute if we're not careful, very careful.

And yes, I've been to Barstow. Like the attendant, it's almost a state of mind.

Thank you for a poem that paints the picture so clearly that I can take it in with all my senses!


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 4 years ago from San Francisco

Good enough for me. Thank you. I used to make a point of eating in Barstow when going to and from LA.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

PDX yeah I enjoyed it.. thanks for sharing my friend :)


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 4 years ago from California

Nice to see this here Justin and congrats on getting it published!


xstatic profile image

xstatic 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

Great poem Jason, captures that time & place really well!

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