Stephen Benz The 2River View, 8.1 (Fall 2003)
U.S. 77

Frozen rain has made the highway slick.
We’re stalled in a car jam
near Corpus Christi,
accident ahead.

Exhaust swirls in clouds behind cars.
Rain blinds the road signs
and swells the pools along the verge.
Styrofoam cups bob like geese heads
in drainage ditch slush.
Mall lights maroon
the wet parking lots where
cars congregate around islanded trees
tricked out for the holy days.
Think of all traffic backed up for miles,
horsepower in the thousands, corralled but balky,
sleek flanks steaming in cold air.

Such comforts, such ease of travel
yet the drivers end up dozing off,
crossing lanes,
crashing head on, or churning
headlong into fallow fields.
Wreckers come and haul carcasses away on hooks.
The rescue squad straps victims into gurneys.
Traffic processes past, staring,
faces pressed to glass, misted breath erased
by a blast from defrost vents.

Hours ago, we sat in a sterile diner
drinking coffee, mountain grown
in a poor country.
Steam obscured the pane, and plastic ferns,
arranged in an inert rainforest,
separated our booth from others.
We read the news and brooded
over statistics on global warming,
urban violence, famine.

Now I forget the exact causes for concern,
and we’ve reached the site of the wreck, broadcast
glass all that’s left for the road crew’s brooms.
A trooper waves us through,
the road up ahead gleaming
and wide open.

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