by Richard Jones

It's so late I could cut my lights

and drive the next fifty miles

of empty interstate

by starlight,

flying along in a dream,

countryside alive with shapes and shadows,

but exit ramps lined

with eighteen wheelers

and truckers sleeping in their cabs

make me consider pulling into a rest stop

and closing my eyes. I've done it before,

parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,

mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,

the windows slightly misted by the sleepers' breath.

But instead of resting, I'd smoke a cigarette,

play the radio low, and keep watch over

the wayfarers in the car next to me,

a strange paternal concern

and compassion for their well being

rising up inside me.

This was before

I had children of my own,

and had felt the sharp edge of love

and anxiety whenever I tiptoed

into darkened rooms of sleep

to study the small, peaceful faces

of my beloved darlings. Now,

the fatherly feelings are so strong

the snoring truckers are lucky

I'm not standing on the running board,

tapping on the window,

asking, Is everything okay?

But it is. Everything's fine.

The trucks are all together, sleeping

on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,

and the crowded rest stop I'm driving by

is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.

The way I see it, I've got a second wind

and on the radio an all-night country station.

Nothing for me to do on this road

but drive and give thanks:

I'll be home by dawn.


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