On the Road, between Toledo & Cincinnati, Late June
Somewhere dead center in the day's drive
through this relentlessly flat state, the sky
darkens and fills up deepend blue,
and the word 'rain' comes to your lips
twenty seconds before the first waterballoon
droplets hit; and before you can think
or turn and say 'storm' here it comes
spilling out of its box like a load of grain.
The woman in the passenger seat
of a raggedly elegant convertible, top down,
laughs merrily, purse held over her head.
Motorcycles cluster under the awnings
of bridges, five, six, a whole family of Harleys:
Middle Americans for a brief spell
hobos, gathering around the fire
of manageable happenstance. We'll all
make it through. No twister coming to life
out of the yellowing swirl. No pile-up crash
in our cards. The rain subsiding, wipers
knocked back to intermittent, you drive on
through the burgeoning heat: crows
congregating in the backyards of trees,
fireworks stockpiling in the beds of pickups,
young girls towed behind speedboats
in inner tubes, shouting to each other
as they pass over the rotting corpse
of a deer that, a year-rounder told,
finally fell after a long winter
through the melting ice and settled
uneasily on the lake bottom.

Sebastian Matthews

White Road with Swan

I drove the back road because I wanted to see the swans in the snow. Snow
had fallen in the night, a light dusting easier to sweep than shovel.
It felt like a gift sent from someplace else,
intended for just this windless morning.

There were two swans, most likely a mated couple. I had seen them all winter,
drifting on the human pond or twisting their long necks to clean,
or dozing on their own hammocks of brown-gray water
in the lull of an afternoon.

At times I found them neck down, heads submerged into the stagnant water,
feeding or avoiding one another. I liked watching the limber of their long
necks, the wide wings they preened but never used. The swans
became less delicate, less white the more I watched.
I could not tell the male from female.

The white road reminded me of Helen whose name goes back to the child
of a woman and a god disguised as a swan. Helen who lost her mate
last summer. When she told me of the heart attack, she said he was
working in the garden, doing what he loved. Helen who is not
swan alone but also bear. And once I saw a snowy
owl fly into her, and then back out.

Driving the white road slowly to the swans that morning felt like my long ago.
I was good but could not do what was asked of me. The rattle of chains,
the scrunch of dry snow under wheels, anticipating the blow
of snow, the wind, the gates ajar of January.

I came to their curve but could not find them. I searched the gentle mallards
in their places. As if the dull pond were breathing, a mist rose where
the swans had ridden the winter. I searched the crusted sedge.
Maybe the swans thought this world was white enough
now a touch of snow had fallen.

Laurie Kutchins