Highway Death

Along the valley floor a freight

train snakes along, writhing

in April gray. A highway slinks

among farms no longer farmed,

abandoned barns collapsing

in mock despair. You and I

have traveled this route so often

we’ve engraved it on our bones

like scrimshaw. Bellows Falls,

Westminster, Putney. The names loll

on our tongues. At a steep bend

two cars have met head-on.

The ambulance has come and gone,

and a fire engine hoses away

gasoline pooled on the asphalt.

We’ve often thought of ending

this way, the sneer of wreckage

gnashing with unspeakable pain,

dark pouring over and through us.

Today, though, disaster struck

others, leaving us innocent

as a pair of socks. We drive south

and park in Putney Village to snack

on something rich and sugary

and impose a more gradual fate

on bodies we no longer admire.

The day declines in various

shades of digression. War continues

in the Middle East and Africa.

Coal mining opens great sores.

Politicians offer hope and dreams

while cocaine improves the sleep

of millions of broken psyches.

We douse our talk with coffee

and gaze across a greening lawn

to count the parked cars gleaming

under cloud cover tough as leather;

and we agree that highway death

probably lingers much longer

than the extinction we impose

on each other every day.


William Doreski 

My work has appeared in a bunch of other magazines, both e and print, and in a few collections. I try to teach writing and literature at Keene State College in New Hampshire, the state where politicians come every four years to thoroughly embarrass and humble themselves the way the rest of us do by living here.

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