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Chicagoetry: Wreck On The Highway

Wreck on the Highway

Punching through the post-midnight air
Comes the unmistakable sound of hurtling metal
Crunching into hurtling metal.
Not a collision; the sound of two cars
Moving fast in the same direction
Coming together violently, then
Coming to a halt.

The sounds make a clear picture.
You anticipate such things when you sleep
Fifty feet from an interstate.
You are startled if not surprised.

You get up. You have to see.

You have to see:
The instinct is profound and after midnight
You are too weary to fight it.
Maybe you can help.

Often, what has happened is relatively minor.
You live effectively in the mezzanine at an on-ramp, and
Most of the crashes are there and minor, in slow traffic.
Last time, at mid-day, you looked to see a van
Perched atop the concrete divider between ramp lanes.

It looked funny; no one was hurt, although folks
Were clearly angry and confused,
Snapping at one another, raising their hands to God.
Something to see: two tow trucks
With what appeared to be large rubber bands
Wrapped around the van seeing it carefully
Back onto the road surface.

This was clearly different from the moment it happened.
It was nearby, but when you get out of bed to look
Out the window, there's nothing to see. Traffic
Is moving along at apparently normal speed for 1:30 a.m.
On an interstate expressway, and there is

No more noise.

You're not sure what, if anything happened.
You don't make any phone calls.
This sticks with you that you don't call the police.
To say what? You can't see anything but you thought
You heard something?

That sticks with you.

Back in bed, you note that there are no sirens
For a significant passage of time. Maybe
It's nothing. Then, from a long distance, a siren.
You ponder the protocols of sirens.
This one is from a great distance away
And may be attending another accident.

But then you see the blue and red lights,
Right out front. OK, something did happen, and
Something fairly serious, from the sound of it.
The lights stop about fifty yards west,
And you want to see. Again, you want to see,

Fearing, yet also frankly anticipating, the potential carnage.
That sticks with you. That really sticks with you.

"Keys, man. Keys. Don't get locked out
Of the goddam building in the middle of the night
To gawk." Actually, keys in hand, you still use
The brick to keep the inside front door

From locking shut. You cross your narrow street,
A frontage road, and step up to the
Concrete base of the chain-link fence over the highway.
You're at a height where you could step out
Onto the roof of a stalled semi-trailer.

You can see one fire truck, bright lights on the shoulder,
And the short-sleeved uniformed arm

Of an officer making some sort of gesture.
That's all. You can't see the cars involved as
They're blocked by a state police prowler
And a fire truck, as traffic finally starts to back up.

You go back inside.

Now loud sirens come closer, one
At a time. You get up to see the tops
Of these vehicles. Two more fire trucks
And at least one ambulance.
They come in waves, taking much longer

Than you might have imagined.
In fact, it stretches out over a longer
Period of time than you had guessed.
You don't think you hear sirens leaving the scene.
Again, you ponder the protocols of sirens.

You acknowledge, not for the first time,
How rare such an accident here is, given your proximity
To the highway. It happens every day, all the time, somewhere,
But you thought it would be happen right out front
Every day, all the time, when you first moved in.
You are thankful that is not the case.

You think of the Springsteen song from The River
Called "Wreck on the Highway:"

"And I thought of a girlfriend or a young wife
And a state trooper knocking in the middle of the night
To say your baby died in a wreck on the highway."

"God help those poor people," you say out loud
To yourself, acknowledging, not for the first time,

That you're praying.


J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.


More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel

* The Viral Video: The Match Game Dance


Posted on June 5, 2017

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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