[First Taxi] by Sam Taylor

I stepped off the Greyhound into a light rain, streetlights
slurred, just shy of the border, a line of taxis at the curb,

waiting, right where my mother said they would be. 2
I had never gone anywhere alone in my life. And I guess

I thought I was supposed to bargain.3 “How much to ride
through the slow rain of my whole life?” Twelve dollars.

“How much to step inside a painting that has waited
since the day of my birth?” Twelve dollars.

Twenty-one, just out of college, the high school genius
with no job or prospects—afraid to talk to people4

If I looked half as lost as I felt, I was sure I’d be fleeced.
“How much to tell her that I have forgiven her?”5

Twelve dollars. “That I have not, but I will.” Still twelve.
That was America, everything a fixed price. He didn’t say

Empty your pockets, empty the pail of blueberries
you picked with her when you were five, empty the beaches

where she swam, sand by sand.” I like to imagine
I asked last, “How much to go to the International Motel?”6

and he said ten. But, really, I just quibbled,
then checked with each cab in the queue. All said twelve.

and I got in. This was America.7 And that was me.
Bargaining for a taxi to go see my dying mother.


Sam Taylor is the author of two books of poems, Body of the World (Ausable/Copper Canyon) and the forthcoming Nude Descending an Empire (Pitt Poetry Series, Fall 2014), which develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet engaged with history, politics, and the urgency of our contemporary moment. The pieces here are excerpts from a third collection, a book-length poem, The Book of Fools: An Essay in Memoir and Verse, which incorporates a number of experimental techniques (self-erasure, strike-thrus, footnotes, and more) into the larger arc of an accessible narrative, while also marrying personal, confessional themes with global, ecological ones. Other excerpts of the poem are forthcoming at The New Republic and Omniverse, and his website is www.samtaylor.us