Highway dulled under
a listless sky, I’m dialed in
to tire hum, to the intermittent halfmoon
of the wiper blade, to the soaked trees
congregating in their dark afternoons.
I swerve a little into the graveled
fringe and come awake,
slide back to the road going home
from my visit to the quiet prison
to talk once more with the woman
who won’t be free for twenty years,
if that’s how long it takes
to pay for a death,
to settle with what she did
to another’s life. I could have
told her how God sleeps
in the field, in the muck
flattening out on either side
of the road, and when he awakens,
the offer will not be forgiveness.
He will be adorned
with the earth falling
from his form, the mud
and the chaff, the fecund
stench of decay, and he will be
conversant with give and take,
and she will not need to explain
when she removes
the scab red clothes
that were all she had.
I could have told her
when the sky is dismissive
of distinction we all drift
to the shoulder.
David Swerdlow’s work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, American Literary Review, and many other distinguished journals. He has published two books of poetry with WordTech Editions: Bodies on Earth (2010) and Small Holes in the Universe (2003). His first novel, Television Man, was published last fall by Czykmate Productions. He teaches literature and creative writing at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.