Black Hills
Not the abruptly slowing cars ahead, or the way traffic snarled to a standstill, now inching forward as the right lane merged with the left; not the blinking lights ahead, nor the ambulance sprawled sideways across the lanes; not the men and women huddled in the breakdown lane; not even the one automobile, turned over on its hood, door ajar. None of it stirred my son and his friend from their video game cocoon, never once looking up to see, happy in each other’s parallel play. (“It’s when you buy the moon,” one says to the other. “This game gets fun.”) And on the way back from the match, late afternoon light cutting sideways across the lanes, visor down to block the blare, I passed the exit for 221, the road we crashed on at just this hour, heading up to Spruce Pine for a weekend getaway. I kept us straight on 40, letting the quiet music carry me forward; and as we headed up the mountains, the stench of burning brakes from the trucks coming down, with the sun now bright and triumphant behind the Black Hills calling out the oncoming night in trumpeting reds and yellows, even I didn’t look up from my cocoon of driving and notice all the potential wreckage, even I didn’t flare up in my own body or lose hope for the future.

Originally published in American Poetry Review