After Mother Died
I would have delayed departure
if I could, but the hour was fixed.
The car pulled round to the front
of the house, the whole carousel
of journey set in motion while we
struggled into sweaters and over
packed bags. I suppose we sought
an easy out. A plane to someplace
that wasn’t home. A strong farewell
to cemetery dirt and casseroles,
the family off and on the road
to recovery. Or so we thought.
Who could foresee the Route 1 snarl?
a jackknifed trailer and traffic flares—
Unwary drivers drifting across lanes
like bits of fluff in a high wind. Some
of them collided with each other, some
smashed into Jersey barriers, and some
burst into flame. We heard no sound.
On the shoulder a woman held her husband,
held her son, her two arms stretched as wide
as they could go. Two figures sleeping,
it appeared, in the light of that conflagration.
We passed unscathed, no place to stop, no choices
to be made there. Not for us, at least,
that sudden cheek-to-cheek with death.
We slipped by unharmed and headed east.