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Getting Gas in Barstow, California: Poetry
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.
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?
He nods sadly and, as I drive away,