Stop and Rest

by Charlotte McCash

Shrouded in the mountains
by the side of the road
is a cast aside scrap of everything
wrong with the world.
Sanctuary, sheltering
peanuts and barbeque ranch chips—
Marlboros and beef jerky—
a single restroom with a light that flickers—
and tangled, weary wanderers from
eighteen-wheel roars and
those all-seeing eyes.
Nothing for miles of road, just
fieldsandtrees, fieldsandtrees,
McDonal—  Gentleman’s Clu—  Exxon Mobi—
Huddled under a peeling paint sign
hiding from goliath mountains and
wide-stretching sky
gray, always gray with rain
so close to the road, cracked parking lot a thrown
hubcap’s hobble
from the highway
plastic bags dragging themselves
to the safety of the concrete step,
an oil slick stretches out to tag the building—safe—
pooling with relief at gained immunity.

And cars blur past, too fast
to turn in.  Does anyone ever
turn in?

A lanky man, careworn, presides over the register
cocooned in racks of curling magazines, stacks         
of gum and lottery tickets, his seldom smile seen
A woman restocks the cooler. Orderly bottles
follow each other in rows, seamless like
the cursive name stitched
in red on her breast pocket.
Taciturn, they grant visitors entrance to their sanctum:
hydrogenated oils and relief. 

Someday, shooting past
fieldsandtrees, fieldsandtrees,
I’ll stop.
And I’ll turn in.
Because in the tiny island of peeling paint and
brown-specked linoleum
I recognize myself.
And when I park crookedly in the
unlined lot and run
to throw open the doors
those strangers will look up
to recognize me.    

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