The Last Gas Station on 57 – Portia Elan

One boyfriend used to complain:
all the always open, 24-hour places in Jefferson City
(diners & Hy-Vee’s & Walmarts)
the clerks, the waitresses, stranded in fluorescence
through the night;

but here, moving at the speed of 200 horses
eating Double Stufs & drinking burnt coffee
& listening to Jesus rock or Top 40 country
or bits of an old novel on CD,
wide awake, destroyed into this movement,
I am praying for something still to be open,
something less dangerous, something less alien,
to see past my headlights a neon sign saying
24-Hour Gas or Diner or even I’m praying
for the 57 Lion’s Den where I could go
& under the fluorescent lights thumb
through strippers’ outfits & dildos & butt plugs
in their plastic cases & if I wanted I could pay $6
to go into a booth in the arcade in the basement
to watch a porno & if I did I’d be thinking
about a different boyfriend
who talked dirty on the phone during my long drives
& fantasized about being with me in one of these booths
& the glory holes in the side & maybe
some other dude would stick his cock through the hole
& while I was listening on my little headset to him telling this
I wavered between wet & nauseated & I was always grateful
when he hung up because I could roll down the window & light a smoke
& these two wills inside me are horses wanting both bridle & to bolt:
between Des Moines & Rantoul
between the flat & the flat leaving another long-distance lover
back to my regular through the flat flat flat of Iowa back to Illinois
every mile is totally unremarked, not making or erasing
because the road, really, is more mirror than anything –
it is as long as my desire; it is as empty as my desire:
the reflection an uncomfortable thing,
bucking up & asking Who am I & Why have you brought me here.

Portia Elan lives and writes on the West Coast with her Gemini cat. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Ninth Letter, Birdfeast, Thrush, and Sonora Review, among others. Her chapbooks To Yield Like Water & Nothing Else (dancing girl press) and Ghazals for the Body (Mindmade Books) will be available in fall 2014. She can be found on the internet at

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