Oct 29, 2004

Pictures of breaking away

In Ohio all the postcards were from Florida, from outside, away, where they don’t grow hay, where the dirt’s all sand and the water’s real blue and on the front of every post card was a girl bikinied and air brushed and tan and she was always arching her back or something like that and they pinned up the post cards by the shop door. There were a half dozen of them there, below the clock and covered in diesel dust and we’d stand circled between them and the door and the pop-filled refrigerator hanging hay hooks on our belts and waiting for our next truck to come.

I read them once, unpinned them from the wall and flipped them over to the blank white side where they’d been addressed to back here home and postmarked exotically Florida and signed out by uncles on vacation. They didn’t say much. Weather was great and I’ll be back soon enough but damn it’s nice away down here.

I find old postcards sometimes, in antique shops and estate sales and pinned up in old garages and kitchens and sometimes tucked in forgotten in books someone sold without flipping through, and they never do say much – there and back, me and you, home and away and weather and touristy sight you can say you can see. There’s not much space on a postcard and not much ever said and half of it’s just addressing anyway and we write in the white whatever we think of on hand.

It’s just a little blank space on the back of a picture waiting for your words, if only you had something to say. If only you had something to say but you just stare at the space. Waiting. Daunted. Every post card is a case of writer’s block.

I bet mailmen don’t read postcards. Maybe they do in the beginning but if they’ve been at it for awhile they have to know what they say, know they’re just let downs letting down the people who didn’t get to go and the people who have to come back, just pictures of dreams we can only remember wanting to have. They have to know postcards are well wishes benigned into thinking of you, exotic wishes mailed home as temperature information.

Or maybe they do read them, they know what they say but can’t look away and they always read every one and the mailmen too are taunted by the pictures and the hoped thoughts of escape, or breaking away, and then they flip them over and stare at the white side and the boredom again, again every time, lets them down a little sad.

I bought a deck of picture postcards for the pictures back when I was on tour and thought maybe I’d mail them to friends from gas stations along the highway. I found one last night, stuck in a book I hadn’t looked at in awhile. The front’s a picture of Dali-painted cars with clothe draped over the long 1940s hoods and shiny hub caps and the black door panel’s peeled back to showing a red brick wall and a tree grows out of the roof like the car hasn’t moved in a long time. It’s stamped, and addressed but never sent. Half the back is blank. Saying nothing. I addressed it, bought a stamp. I looked at the picture and thought the car needed wings to get away and I looked at the back and had nothing to say. The weather maybe. Or I could tell them I was thinking of them and liked this picture or that I didn’t know if I wanted to be here and didn’t know if I wanted to go back there but I was just blank staring at the square and thinking stop breathing, stop breathing for me now. Write it on a postcard.