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Rest Stop

ISSUE:  Spring 2006

We stopped so she could ease out
the tension building in her calf muscle,
a knot from being cramped together
too long in the car. Our anger had become

just another thing we couldn’t commit to,
and taken up by the heat, it joined
the sticky calm stretched between us.
Near where we parked, a young woman

rested a bottle against her neck,
the water mixing with sweat, and she pulled
her short hair into slick, limp peaks;
while probing their car’s overheated engine,

the serpentine, tattooed arms of her boyfriend—
or husband—moved out and in. Her look said
they could have been going from Oklahoma
to “kiss my ass,” passing the restaurant chains

and strip malls, but caught there in the parking lot,
a distraction for families vacationing.
When we heard their voices becoming clearly
a name, we knew it was a mother

and father calling, what we all fear.
These were the kind of people who could lose
a child: frantic, almost chiding the boy,
who must only be playing a child’s trick.

Behind a tree, he became the tree, and his face
contained all faces of children emptying
from sedans. In no time, in a time that now seems
impossible, a crowd had gathered for the search,

and when I looked from the mother to the woman
I was with, what looked back was inconsolable.
Trickster, not the boy but the angel,
don’t come to make good on your promise,

your dark reprimand.
There was no angel.
And the boy was found down by the dog park.
Over the small, round rise of her stomach,
he rested his arm, the inked coils of a snake.



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