/ Poetry

When Stillness Impels

On Greybull Highway, between Cody and Emblem, going
just under thirty, in an eighty-something speed zone.
I'm driving in the dark
and everything just whirs past
if you let your eyes unfocus,
and you stop
counting the mile markers.
Rolling the window down lets in a
rush of crisp air,
the smell of tilled earth,
and undulating oceans of grazing land. Then an occasional
silo or barn or tractor.
But even those sidle past like they
even exist.

With no street lights, only the heavens ground me,
anchor me down to this Earth.
I can't see the road
more than a hundred feet ahead, even though
I know it's a straight shoot from here.

I'm going slower than I'd like to concede,
but it's all too fast if you've already quit
watching the signs, if you're fatigued by the journey,
the constant changes in weather, the shoddy engine,
all the manual shifting is complicated,
the many conflicting and spurious routes suggested by
guidebooks and maps that may or may not just be
wadded up in the back seat,
the smell of sweat.
And it's slow, but it's way too fast if
you're frankly dreading the inevitable return home
that comes too soon, interrupting a good
(albeit tiring)

...If the wrecked, damned car will
even get you all the way there.
Somehow I then intuit hidden meaning when you say

"It doesn't get any better than this."

A yawn sneaks out of me. Then
I pass a blown out tire and a dead cow.
What's the story there I wonder.

I could close my eyes and pretend
the whole trip's a mystery, but the top of the hill
isn't far ahead. It's all downhill from there, and
the end will be visible on the horizon the rest of the way.
Luckily from then on I can just coast down, if need be.
And the brakes on this thing are passable, at least.
I won't be able to take in the scenery if
I keep gaining speed, so I might try to take it slow,
even though this could be the darkest hour of night.
And there are ample offshoots,
alternate routes presenting themselves,
but those roads look even bumpier, and they don't
seem promising. The guidebooks might all be wrong, but if you
average out their countless petty contradictions, the
direction I'm going now is nearly in line the suggested path.

At least I think so.

Some number of miles later:
The clock on the dashboard is broken, but I can tell the
first signs of light are sneaking up on the other side of the hill.
Nobody behind me for several miles, and
although I don't feel like I've gotten ahead,
I haven't seen tail lights in ages.
The whole world seems still, even though I'm running
a good two thousand revolutions per minute,
straight towards dawn.

Suddenly I get an idea.
I put the car in neutral. Gravity slowly lulls me to a stop.
I put this forsaken contraption into park on the side of the road,
pull the parking brake,
switch the lights off,
unbuckle the safety belt, and
then open the door and get out.
The pads of my shoes hug to the asphalt.

The sound of all this stirs my traveling companions
from their uncomfortable sleep.
Without talking, they comprehend after a moment.
They step out too, onto the vast blackness.
We walk onto the yellow dashed line.

The stillness of the air presses my throat
like how our still feet press the road,
and a goose flies far overhead, alone, making its call.
Other than the goose, nothing moves. Not a blade of grass.
And at this moment,
I realize no matter how far I go
We can always just be completely still.

So we are.

We lie down right there, in the middle of the road.
My eyes follow the goose as he flies East,
towards the inbound bands of color.
In the quiet I hear my heartbeat, watch the sky gently lighten,
feel morning twilight's gentle breeze play with my hair,
and tickle the roadside grass.

And I contemplate the dissimilarity of this road trip's pains,
and this life's joys.

Nick Giampietro

Nick Giampietro

Nick graduated from Portland State University with a degree in Japanese Literature and a minor in English, and works as a Software Engineer in Portland. He lives with his wife, son, and dog-of-a-cat.

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