My friend and I had been driving half the night
On a pitch dark, straight desert highway
Listening to country radio,
Two zombies, half crazy.
We were young, driving your father's jeep.
Now we needed coffee.
We needed food.
We needed gas.
The night was behind us
But dawn was a work in progress.
We were looking for a cafe'
But would have settled for a bar
With a stained silex.
I was driving.
My eyes were open
But my brain was done.
I saw the tracks coming up but I didn't see
The long black and white-striped arms swinging down
Until we were almost under them.
I gunned it.
We made it (obviously)
But what I want I say is
What happened was a miracle.
Our lives suddenly mattered
While at the same time nothing else mattered,
That is, I don't remember what happened after that.
What I'm saying is
That freight train with our names on it?
Decided to let us grow old.
This poem is based on a memory of a real near-death event. We were seconds from being creamed by a freight train. There was no interval between when the arms came down and the train barreled through. It's so long ago I don't remember anything else that happened on most of our trip to Navaho country from Connecticut. Our destination was Many Farms where we tutored at Navaho Community College, I was 18. My friend was 16.
(Article changed on Jun 27, 2022 at 3:52 PM EDT)