Driving the Coast

I look at you in profile: one hand
on the wheel, the other resting
on the gear stick and I know
that I shouldn’t, but I love you.

The moving backdrop of an open
window: I can see the coarse rub …

About the poem

This poem appeared in the Autumn issue of The Moth Magazine in September 2017. 

This poem is, amongst other things, a testament to the value of writing prompts... and ex-boyfriends. I keep a pot of writing prompts on my desk for those times when I am stuck and have a deadline, or need to add fresh ideas for my work. I've collected them from books and various places on the internet; I write each one on a piece of paper, fold it up and put it in the bowl as a sort of insurance policy for future inspiration. In this instance, I drew the prompt "Driving the coast." I started making notes and one of my first thoughts was of an ex-boyfriend who I associate closely with driving. Some of the description and the emotion comes from my memories of times driving around with him at the wheel.

Although I think both writing prompts and memories are valuable sources of material, you don't have to be a slave to either. The prompt gave me the title and the impetus to write but I didn't stick entirely to the brief of writing about that specific subject. Similarly, although there are shades of one particular ex, I didn't stick entirely to the facts. There are thoughts and feelings from other relationships woven in there, and indeed moments of complete invention. Just like the prompt, that picture in my head of looking at a man driving from the passenger seat served its purpose and from there, I chose to invent a scenario that fit with the structure and drive of the poem. The result is both more personal than sticking to the brief and more universal than sticking to the facts. 

I was delighted that this poem was accepted for The Moth because it feels like a little miracle, plucked from my pot of prompts to appear within the pages of a magazine I admire for the creativity and diversity of the work they publish.