It’s so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
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 children’s 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 an all-night country station:
nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks—
I’ll be home by dawn.
Richard Jones is the author of seven books of poems, including his most recent volume, Apropos of Nothing (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), and a forthcoming collection, The Correct Spelling & Exact Meaning (Copper Canyon, 2009). A volume of new and collected poems, The Blessing (Copper Canyon, 2000), won the Society of Midland Authors Award for poetry. A new collection, King of Hearts, is forthcoming from Adastra Press. For twenty-nine years he has been editor of the literary journal Poetry East, which celebrates poetry, translation, and art from around the world; he also edits the journal’s free poetry app, “The Poet’s Almanac.” He lives in Chicago, where he is a professor of English at DePaul University. (updated 9/2015)