Sunday, April 05, 2009

Those places between other places

Three hours out from the bridge
with the broken toll basket and just
one hour after every song on the radio
became wrong, and there is nothing to do
but busy ourselves with the calculus of travel –
the speed that will get us there fastest
without a ticket, or how many miles
before we definitely, without question
will need to stop for gas, or how it is
that mile markers can decrement so steadily
without ever seeming to become any lesser.

The fringe of the far woods, out there
just over your left shoulder might be beautiful,
touched here and there by the pink and slanted sun
of a summer evening. It could all be lovely –
the broad lawns where rabbits stand tall
with their shadows running away from them
as far as the next exit, the barns and silver ponds
where no one at all is fishing from boat or shore.
It might be perfect, if only we could afford the seconds
to turn and look as we blaze past at 80.

This far out, the names of all the towns
seem to be made from Scrabble tiles
or possibly Finnish, and the low stores
waiting at the end of each off-ramp
look like they carry only strange brands,
and we ask each other what it must be like
to come home here each night from God knows where,
pulling up in front of one of those new houses
on a street with a blandly pretty name,
to dinner with a pretty enough wife.

Look up from your magazine, now and again
and allow your eye to trick over all the work done
just so our passage would have a backdrop –
the distant aqueduct of the interstate,
where the signs decree that East and West each begin,
and 105, somehow, becomes 287, too,
the impossibly intricate refineries, all latticed walks
and bristling stacks, raised just so we had something to see
in the void between exits 62 and 65.

Does it seem extravagant that all this was done
just so our bright car, our earnest faces
both looking ahead would seem even more beautiful
set against the little mountains and tiny trestles?
I’m sure that someone in each car that’s passed
all day long thought the exact same thing.

Mark Aiello