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.
Cherries in the Snow
My mother never appeared in public
without lipstick. If we were going out,
I’d have to wait by the door until
she painted her lips and turned
from the hallway mirror,
put on her gloves and picked up her purse,
opening the purse to see
if she’d remembered tissues.
After lunch in a restaurant
she might ask,
“Do I need lipstick?”
If I said yes,
she would discretely turn
and refresh her faded lips.
Opening the black and gold canister,
she’d peer in a round compact
as if she were looking into another world.
Then she’d touch her lips to a tissue.
Whenever I went searching
in her coat pocket or purse
for coins or candy
I’d find, crumpled, those small white tissues
covered with bloodred kisses.
I’d slip them into my pocket,
along with the stones and feathers
I thought, back then, I’d keep.