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.

More by Richard Jones

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.

Related Poems

Tours

A girl on the stairs listens to her father
Beat up her mother.
Doors bang.
She comes down in her nightgown.

The piano stands there in the dark 
Like a boy with an orchid.

She plays what she can
Then she turns the lamp on.

Her mother's music is spread out
On the floor like brochures.

She hears her father
Running through the leaves.

The last black key
She presses stays down, makes no sound
Someone putting their tongue where their tooth had been.