Night Driving--The Great Plains

You can see the lights of Trinidad and La Junta
spread out across the prairie,
resembling the twinkling cluster of the Pleiades
from fifty miles (or maybe, light years) distant.
You drive and drive, seventy-five, eighty miles an hour,
but the highway is a treadmill in this darkness,
until suddenly, there you are,
driving through a one-story town
that seems like a miniature village
asleep beside the tracks of a model railroad,
but there are no people walking its streets
or waving to trains rumbling through their dreams.
Towns like Cheyenne Wells or Sharon Springs,
even smaller places, with giant grain elevators
towering over empty rails cars,
look like paper pop-up towns
nestled in the pages of children's books,
facades for lives lived between the lines
of stories I'm passing through too fast to read.
These little towns seem like destinations at two a.m.;
but you're through them before you know it,
surrounded again by the black void.
Red circles beside red lines on a map, these lights in the night,
make you think of the end of your life as you approach them.
You've heard that when you die,
you see another light in the distance,
so you press down on the accelerator,
fiddle with the radio, searching for a voice in the static
to let you know you're not alone,
that you are, indeed, going someplace.

  Larry Schug
Copyright © 2001 Larry Schug
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