Lizzy’s child is crying, the sickness gone too deep.
Too quickly does he fall into a burning restless sleep.
She wraps him in a blanket thin, protection from the sun,
And carries him against her breast, his little shoes undone.
Now in the car that Daddy bought, and leaving home behind,
She frets about the traffic lights, and turns she mightn’t find.
The city is so far away; too broad the countryside,
And whimpers from her baby boy, now intensified.
She drives a little faster than prudence might require,
But surely such is justified; indeed her need is dire.
She speeds across the valley road to find the Interstate,
Which flows into the city like a river running late.
* * *
The old man loads his truck with wood, and dreams of colder times
That surely will arrive again on tingling winter chimes.
The oak and apple, dried for use, will keep his family warm
Against December wind and chill that come with winter storm.
Age and aches have slowed his work, but now ‘tis mostly done;
He’ll drive his load the twenty miles ‘neath autumn’s evening sun.
“Miss Lucy will be glad,” he says, “to see me in the drive.
She worries ‘bout me out alone, but I’ll be at home by five.”
He trembles, tired and worn, and turns on Cooper Road,
Thinking of Miss Lucy’s smile, prideful of his load.
This will be the last this year, he has enough to last.
“I mustn’t hurry home today, I mustn’t go too fast.”
He turns again past fields of grain—fields of green and gold—
Just ready for the harvest now, blessings to unfold
To feed the folks of Cooper town, his friends, his kids, his kin.
His time with them is all he has, except his soul within.
* * *
Young Martin Luke, a college boy, has yet to settle down
Amid the cars and girls and lights of evening Cooper town.
Today he speeds ‘cross country lanes, his car a thing alive
And heedless of the gentle curves and folks he might deprive
Of safety in this country place, of peace not often strained,
Except by twilight summer storms or cattle unrestrained.
But Martin’s car, a reddish blur, his engine whining loud,
His motive nought but joy and fun, his conscious disavowed.
He needs to own more speed than this; he craves the breathless thrill
Of daring fate to slow his pace, enticing fate to test his skill
Upon the pavement’s smooth gray miles, upon the sunlit track,
Which has no end that youth can see either going or coming back.
* * *
Two highways meet just out of town, a crossroads lined by trees
Of oak and maple, red and gold, shining in the autumn breeze.
Lizzy speeds in from the north, Martin from the west—
The old man eases toward the setting sun, his mind on home and rest.
He stops to let the traffic through; he’s time enough to spare,
But caution is not always enough to eyes so old and unaware.
He eases into the paths of those whose concerns are not his own—
Whose thoughts are everywhere but on sins they can’t atone.
Martin speeds for speed itself, while Lizzy’s pace unchecked
Is driven by a mother’s fear of a life so nearly wrecked.
She hits the truck at eighty, dead before she knows
That Martin’s skill has come to nought, and does thereby expose
To a gentle sun and evening wind that caresses four who died
And left their bones and splashing blood so very far outside
The evening peace and supper fires of homes they left behind—
Those homes that held a light now gone, those homes now undefined.