After Mother Died
Phebe Davidson

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.

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