Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

Are you authorized?—A Poem

Jerry Stratton, November 22, 2023

I was driving from Texas to San Diego after a blowout near Sonora when the basics of this poem began to bubble up from the tar beneath my wheels.

Are you authorized?

    • Drive not into smoke
    • Nor brave standing water in the road.
    • When lightning flashes, seek not a shading tree,
    • Nor stand amidst the wide and waving plain.
    • Hitchhikers may be dangerous
    • There is no tolerance for speed.
    • The bridge across the gaping earth
    • Ices before the road.
    • That which pursues you
    • May be closer than it appears.

As you read this I’m probably on the road again, so this is my gift to you as you also travel to family and friends this Thanksgiving holiday—or as you reminisce about Thanksgivings past.

The title comes from a story told by a police chief while I was researching The Dream of Poor Bazin. I was in a small town in Louisiana, and trying to find a nearby ghost town. It was a real ghost town, in that it had been overgrown so much it was invisible, and this was before ubiquitous GPS mapping. I did have a map, but all of the roads supposedly leading into the ghost town were labeled “unnamed road”… and unless I was in the wrong place, they were also overgrown to the point of invisibility.

So I went into the nearest non-ghost town thinking I might find a local history section in the library. The library turned out to be closed, but the library was in the same building as the post office, so I thought I’d ask whoever was working there when the library would open.

The post office, while open, was unattended. However, the town hall was also in the same building, so I walked over and asked the ladies at the front desk if they knew anything about that ghost town, or where I might find more about it.

“Oh, you need to talk to our police chief!”

And the chief of police came out from a back room—the police department was apparently also in this same very small building—heard what I was interested in, and immediately dropped everything to give a tour of the ghost town. He was a local history buff, and even loaned me a relatively rare book about the Nightriders.

While giving the tour, we passed one of those highway signs that most states have, telling us it’s illegal to use median crossings. In Louisiana they’re worded something like “Authorized Use Only”. One time at night, he saw a vehicle behind him use one of the crossings. He turned around himself, flipped on his lights, and signaled them to stop.

He walked up casually as police officers always do in a routine traffic stop, came up to their window, gave them a thumbs-up and a wink, said you’re authorized, and then walked back to his car and left.

It was probably funnier hearing it than taking part in it.

  1. <- ePub workflow notes
  2. V faces of V ->