by Tim Seibles
It was already on when you came in:
a two-lane road, the car’s high beams
blaming the dark. In the rearview mirror,
the downtown of a city—familiar, but not.
Because you have found yourself
cast in the world without your consent,
you think you must be something
like other people—like the dude
two rows back with his face lit by a phone
or maybe like the star behind the wheel:
one eye swollen, the other tight in a squint.
You want to know what happened,
what’s happening and where the road
will go and when and soon
she’s standing outside a 7-11
filling up her dusty, dark-blue Mustang.
Early sun steams the back window.
Maybe she drove all night—
her voice: part sorrow, part wind
under the overhang. Why didn’t I
see it before, she asks aloud
for everyone, flexing the engine,
ready to go.
This is the story of what
happens when what
has seemed one way
turns out to be another way:
like a priest.
Even when the day is sprung,
and you wake up trapped
in everything, you want this face
on screen: cool, without a flinch.
Even the way she steers
is a declaration—you want to drive
You could drive like that:
like somebody in charge,
somebody who “knows the deal.”
On the passenger seat,
half-stashed in her scarf, a .38.
Your mind moves to revenge: how
your circumstances just don’t
make any sense. You want
to know who made it this way
and one chance to make them
back down and beg: the reversal,
sizzling with drama and music
that means you were right
all along. That’s why you
keep watching—like everyone else
holding their sodas in the dark.
She could be a friend,
A nice person who deserves
some goddam justice. You
can tell she’d like another life:
without so many
hard decisions adding up
to only one. Maybe
you really are the character
other people think you are,
even though they can’t hear
what’s playing in your head.
After the movie, you walk
back into the mall wondering
if you could do what
she did. That was
pretty good, you mutter
with no one nearby
and light all over your face.
Poem copyright 2022 by Tim Seibles. All rights reserved.