Shared passage

We’re fellow-travelers for twenty minutes, or forty,
where compass settings cross,
turning points in two novels with different themes,
a darkness divided only by road signs,

my domain the right-hand lane, while in the central one
a salesman scoots up wearing off the two rum and cokes that celebrated his last sale of the week,

and an untethered guitarist,
freed from his frets tonight,
heading toward his next coffeehouse to play the same licks on a different chorus,
satisfied so far by a higher than expected box office,

the still shaking woman with fingers cradled over the wheel,
toddler and baby in their car seats,
heading from a place not home to another that cannot be,
but where a sister must house her
because the rest of the world is too small,

the student fitting in a smooch during class break with her lover,
both dulled with the elixir that convinces them they’ll be there next break.

We all chose to cross the emptiness that flickers through lamp-lit slabs of pavement,
we girded towns, shunned sights—not just because the road was faster,
but also because it was empty.

This road becomes the cabinet in which our dreaming night-flight
tucks away the events we have left behind,
and reassesses the gains we imagine ahead.

Comfort yourselves, self-displaced strangers, outcast actors,
pressing your vehicles across a peninsula or a continent.
Like all of you, I nourish a hope beyond reason,
knowing nothing of what will greet me
across the next bridge.

And yet I have wagered on the proposition that the soul I will encounter will reciprocate,
will be what I thought and not alien,
will not deal out to me the etiquette of disregard—and may even recognize
that I took on the hazards of the journey alone in my vehicle.
I am launched inexorably in the direction my headlights point;
I will return, but not the same as I left.

Gradually the cars dispossess their lanes.
I’m glad you all have gone or will go your ways.
Sole passenger in my car, I have only one person with me now.


This poem was published in the February 2024 issue of Stone Poetry Quarterly.

Andy Oram
April 9, 2017

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