Rest., by Richard Jones

It’s so late I could cut my lights
and drive the next fifty miles
of empty interstate
by starlight,
flying along in a dream,
countryside alive with shapes and shadows,
but exit ramps lined
with eighteen wheelers
and truckers sleeping in their cabs
make me consider pulling into a rest stop
and closing my eyes. I’ve done it before,
parking next to a family sleeping in a Chevy,
mom and dad up front, three kids in the back,
the windows slightly misted by the sleepers’ breath.
But instead of resting, I’d smoke a cigarette,
play the radio low, and keep watch over
the wayfarers in the car next to me,
a strange paternal concern
and compassion for their well being
rising up inside me.
This was before
I had children of my own,
and had felt the sharp edge of love
and anxiety whenever I tiptoed
into darkened rooms of sleep
to study the small, peaceful faces
of my beloved darlings. Now,
the fatherly feelings are so strong
the snoring truckers are lucky
I’m not standing on the running board,
tapping on the window,
asking, Is everything okay?
But it is. Everything’s fine.
The trucks are all together, sleeping
on the gravel shoulders of exit ramps,
and the crowded rest stop I’m driving by
is a perfect oasis in the moonlight.
The way I see it, I’ve got a second wind
and on the radio an all-night country station.
Nothing for me to do on this road
but drive and give thanks:
I’ll be home by dawn.

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Christmas at Sea, by Robert Louis Stevenson

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor’wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But ‘twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops’l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So’s we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every ‘long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it’s just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard’s was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother’s silver spectacles, my father’s silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
“All hands to loose topgallant sails,” I heard the captain call.
“By the Lord, she’ll never stand it,” our first mate Jackson, cried.
…”It’s the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson,” he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter’s day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a mighty breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Dead Straight, by Olive Senior

I’m traveling back home to you but it’s an omen:
my road map’s creased and torn along dead straight lines.

The hill and gully ride is over now and I’m flat out
on the dead straight highway with a toll.

Not a glimmer of the coastline as I try to make it home
to you through a forest of hotels as thick as thieves.

For the sea, the coves and beaches once seen through
seaside shacks and palm trees have been sold.

And the rest of us are herded to the verge by this new
highway while over there our beauty is extolled,

bottled and sold. And gated. In this new paradise the only
palms are greased. And somebody’s beach umbrella

has replaced the shade tree we once sat under and the
towns and settlements molder as they are bypassed.

I can no longer witness on this highway with a toll that
makes us seem as modern as elsewhere. For elsewhere

is not where I’m meant to be. And a dead straight
highway leaves no scent, no monument to the past,

no scenic beauty for the curvature of my eye to take in.
And endless empty space is not inviting. But perhaps

there’s no social meaning to this tirade after all. I’m just
feeling lost without a map as I make it home to you

and pay the toll. You could see it simply as a love song.
To the curving of your cheekbones, to the mountains

of your thighs, the hill and gully passion of your eyes, and
your hair that is not dead straight but very much otherwise.

Brooklyn Anchorage, by Lisa Jarnot

and at noon I will fall in love 
and nothing will have meaning 
except for the brownness of 
the sky, and tradition, and water 
and in the water off the railway 
in New Haven all the lights 
go on across the sun, and for 
millennia those who kiss fall into 
hospitals, riding trains, wearing 
black shoes, pursued by those 
they love, the Chinese in the armies 
with the shiny sound of Johnny Cash, 
and in my plan to be myself 
I became someone else with
soft lips and a secret life, 
and I left, from an airport, 
in tradition of the water
on the plains, until the train 
started moving and yesterday 
it seemed true that suddenly 
inside of the newspaper 
there was a powerline and 
my heart stopped, and everything 
leaned down from the sky to kill me 
and now the cattails sing.

Driving out of Southern Worcester County, by Mary Fell

say goodbye to small towns
their boundaries cutting across the names
of dead indians, trees
still remembering that speech

their shelved histories leaning on
years of drought, of rain, lives
the immigrant knows nothing of

canadian, pole, latin
root their lives on rock
this earth won’t give up

their names the journey a word took
changed but familiar, unaware of footsteps
echoing years back in the forest

their lives held like a cup, thin and intricate
that could break with a sound like water falling
or the sound of an animal running for shelter

but strong with an old craft
hard, and made to be passed on
to their children
or to tourists who look out from car windows
bored, and unknowingly carry them off

The Ferry, by Katia Kapovich

I’m jotting down these lines,
having borrowed a pen from a waitress
in this roadside restaurant. Three rusty pines
prop up the sky in the windows.
My soup gets cold, which implies

I’ll eat it cold. Soon I too
will leave a tip on the table, merge
into the beehive of travelers
and board one of the ferries,
where there’s always a line to the loo
and no one knows where the captain is.

Slightly seasick, I keep on writing
of the wind-rose and lobster traps,
seagulls, if any—and there always are.
Check the air and you’ll see them
above straw hats and caps.
The sun at noon glides like a monstrous star-

fish through clouds. Others drink iced tea,
training binoculars on a tugboat.
When I finish this letter, I’ll take a gulp
from the flask you gave me for the road
in days when I was too young to care about
those on the pier who waved goodbye.

I miss them now: cousins in linen dresses,
my mother, you, boys in light summer shirts.
Life is too long. The compass needle dances.
Everything passes by. The ferry passes
by ragged yellow shores.

Horse Latitudes, by Jo Sarzotti

The past lies in the brine
                            Of equatorial water,
Parchment-folded,
Black ink veining where the quill paused.

Rich doldrums
                            Full of gold
Where Spanish sailors
                            Threw the Queen’s horses,
Palomino, the color of her hair.

On the Outer Banks
                            Each wave a breaking 
Promise of the New World,
                            Lost colonies,
Lost ships, wild ponies
                                          Swimming even now.