This frozen rain has made
the highway slick.
We're stalled in traffic outside Corpus Christi,
Ice blinds the road signs
and swells the pools along the verge.
Styrofoam cups bob like geese heads
in drainage ditch slush.
Mall lights maroon
wet parking lots
where cars congregate
around islanded trees
tricked out for the holy days.
Backed up for miles,
trapped travelers can't help
but think of all that horsepower
sleek flanks steaming in cold air.
Such comforts, such ease of travel,
yet drivers end up dozing off,
crossing lanes, crashing head on,
or churning headlong into fallow fields.
Wreckers come to haul the carcasses
away on hooks. The rescue squad
straps victims into gurneys.
Traffic processes past, staring faces
pressed to glass, misted breath erased
by a blast from defrost vents.
Hours ago, we sat in a sterile diner
drinking coffee, mountain grown
in a poor country.
Steam obscured the pane,
and plastic ferns,
arranged into an inert rainforest,
separated our booth from others.
We read the news and brooded over
global warming, urban violence,
heart disease, and famine.
Now I forget the most telling statistics,
the leading indicators of concern,
and as we reach the site of the wreck, splintered
glass is all that's left for road crew brooms.
Here's the trooper to wave us through,
the road up ahead gleaming
and wide open.
© 2006 Stephen Benz
Stephen Connely Benz is the author of two travel narratives,
Guatemalan Journey (University of Texas Press) and
Green Dreams: Travels in Central America (Lonely
Planet Publications). Travel has been a consistent theme in
his life and writing. He has taught at universities in Central
America and Eastern Europe as a Fulbright Scholar. His work
has appeared in the Miami Herald, Washington
Post, TriQuarterly, Creative Nonfiction,
and River Teeth. After teaching in Florida for many
years, Benz moved to Atlanta, where he currently lives with
his wife, Cheryl.
Stephen Benz's "American
Journey" takes the reader on a roadside spin from Florida
to Texas to New Mexico to California and back East again.
Benz's poems travel by bus, car, and by way of the poet's
thumb, one eye cocked to the litter of our lives, one ear
cupped to the particular cadence of our own American tongue.
If Benz tracks the rough-and-tumble of the American road,
he finds there is also its mitigating music, and sings that
—Stephen Haven, author of "The
Long Silence of the Mohawk Carpet Smokestacks" editor,
Ashland Poetry Press