A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
We were driving home separately from the body shop,
planning to meet halfway at that restaurant
in the hills behind the malls and dealerships,
but I got so lost on the dark back roads
that I pulled into a gas station, an island of light.
The pumps were deserted, but inside was a clerk,
walled off by lottery tickets and slushie machines.
Please, I thought, I have to meet my husband.
He will worry that something bad has happened,
that he must face his future alone, lost in the dark.
The clerk knew the restaurant, even came out
to point: That road winds down through a tunnel,
then count to fifteen, and you’ll be there.
So I drove, and listened to the news, about
the demise of democracy and collapse of civilization,
head-beams probing the dark like outstretched hands.
The sun had sunk behind the jagged trees
in purple streaks, while flares still burned
like refugees’ campfires on the horizon.
The tunnel appeared like a promise kept,
and at the count of fifteen, there it was,
a brick bunker strung with colored lights.
Outside was our car, new bumper gleaming,
and inside, in the paneling, at a Formica table,
there you were, and you weren’t angry. No,
you were glad, and gentle, and you had ordered
korma, and a dhosa stuffed with spiced potatoes,
with condiments of coconut and cooling yogurt.
The owner, scholarly in spectacles, came over
and explained that the cup of reddish liquid
wasn’t a sauce but a soup, and he knew all about
the wife who was lost, and joined in our relief.
Under the fluorescent lights, we ate the hot food,
sharing as we always do, and recounted everything
that had happened since we had separated
at the body shop a half hour before.
Copyright 2020 Judith Sanders