I followed a truck of guns to work today,
crates lashed to a flatbed, dash of red
Fragile and taillights. Ugly March buffered
and air-brushed by fog, sun making promises
from offstage—but walking around my head:
the ones that particular freight would kill how long
from now. Shadow futures—people in the middle
of their morning lives, shaking flakes into a bowl,
punching out to go home—suddenly voiced
in the diamond click and roar of studded snows
beneath me, in the flash of Paul beneath me—
my breasts in his hands immortal or at least
our love. In Della, calming beneath my wide
mother hand, unloading the day’s cruelties, kids
with their own invisible bullet holes who shoot hurt
like buckshot. Sometimes she knows these stories pale
beside the size of, say, The Winter of Red Snow.
Some she has to shut the book, stop
the seeping sadness, no matter whose. Today I flare
and think to run this truck off the road, wish it a colorful
crash and burn, stacks of virgin rifles steaming, ruined,
all those expectant trigger fingers forced to make a fist and
do their damage with flesh. Wonder and cringe when this
thought brings me flaming fingertips, hands that are mine
bursting to do hurt. And my ready right foot, my two-bit
dream of making kids and deer and dairy marts safe
for a sweet month! I watch my hands turn the wheel, the car
veer off onto the highway’s shoulder, all the anger
of a Monday morning mysteriously leavened
by a few spirals of fog and a little sense—me
working to hold the driver blameless, the truck, this day,
it’s a job, it could just as well be cabbages he’s hauling.

© 2001 Ellen Watson
from Ladder Music (Alice James Books, 2001)

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