“Road Sign on Interstate 5,” which received an honorable mention in the Rattle poetry prize and first appeared in Rattle #30, is now available on the Rattle website both as text and as an audio recording of me reading the poem.
The simplified tale of this poem’s creation is that I wrote it almost entirely in one sitting. But the more complete story is that it actually represents a kind of revision of several previous, less successful attempts at writing about my experience growing up on the U.S.-Mexico border.
I had seen the immigrant crossing sign numerous times during trips through San Diego. But it was not until I began to explain the significance of the sign to my wife, an Englishwoman, that I realized its symbolic power. My explanation of the human circumstances behind the sign and its necessity left her in tears. Sometime later, this poem came into focus on the page. Enjoy.
One of the most interesting aspects of the difference between on-line and on-page publication is the element of time. No matter how long one works on a piece of writing, the time to publish it online (and in general the whole pace of the internet at large) is much faster than in the print-publishing world. For example, assuming the first journal to which I send my poems publishes at least one poem right away, the process from mailing out to hearing back to (sometimes) approving galleys to seeing the work in print can take six months or more. As a result, it is nearly impossible in the realm of print publication to respond to something very timely via this medium. In fact, the whole climate (political or otherwise) that may have inspired a particular piece may have blown over altogether by the time it appears on a well-circulated page. Perhaps this is as it should be: that poetry (and nearly all other manner of print publication) remains a perennial art, ideally relevant not only six months but perhaps even six centuries from its inception if it is truly a great piece of work.
This does, however, bring up another interesting notion: the idea of delayed gratification.