Broadside #42 (Winter 2016 / 16.2)
Night Paver’s Song
I’ll admit I like the time alone, this glass cabin,
such stillness, the chance to mull things over.
Slow as salt it’ll be years before I know what I want
and tonight in the cockpit I’m picturing accidents,
ones that will happen on this very asphalt. I used to keep
track of them: number of crashes at night, in winter,
on holidays, three am’s the worst and we all know why.
Had a squawk box and would push a straight pin into a map
I’d tacked to the wall for fatal ones on any road I’d made.
Growing up my brother and I kicked a ball back and forth
in the empty lot beside our house. That’s how I learned
to use both feet. First job working for the state I spread salt
in winter, held a flag to stop traffic in summer.
I’ve still five more hours of rolling. Once this shift ends
I’ll plant a lilac outside the kitchen door so Mary
will have sweet cuttings to bring into the house
come spring. Did you know there’s only one parable
that mentions a person by name? Lazarus, the poor man.
Author’s commentary: I am interested in giving voice to those whose jobs are unseen to most. Think janitorial staff after an airplane has disembarked. Think cook at a nursing home. Think those who pave our roads at night so we can drive on them during the day. So that was the engine behind this poem. I imagined what such a person—in this case a man—would think and wish for and remember.