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Philip Fried


Short Line Driver (in the Garden State)

Not God but the lead-footed, combustible
bus-driver steers our destinies—
no appeals except to the wheel.
So bouncing in potholes, no matter the wobble
in the spin, the wandering poles, the rifting
plates, we ply our cosmic commute,

with her keen eye in the rear-view mirror
to check out reckless comets, ensure
we leave no litter, just a molecular
flurry, little stuff, when we leave.
Her uniform, custom designed by the Line,
features gilded cuffs and crescent-

moon-shaped epaulets like scythes
at the shoulders; it’s a pleasure to wake
each working morning to find her driving
us to work, but what a temper:
the chatter of billions, stuffed with banality’s
weightless luggage, drives her crazy.

Good thing there’s a fraternity
of drivers, the jocular shock-absorbers,
kidding on two-way radios
about asteroid traffic, mocking the daily
fool, some soul at the bus-stop
confusing your local run with the time-

warp express to the end of it all.
She smirks, they all do, at this poor
petitioner who appears at her soon-
to-be-shut door, smirks from the official
condescending height of her gritty
weather-streaked vehicle and croons,

“Honey, it’s coming in twenty, just
hang on.” Petty sadism, yes, but
who else will speak for combustion, exhaust
gases, thermal cycles, imperfect
reactions, inevitable losses,
residue? Who else will get us through?


Philip Fried has published three volumes of poetry: Mutual Trespasses (Ion, 1988), Quantum Genesis (Zohar, 1997), and the newest, Big Men Speaking to Little Men, from Salmon Poetry (2006).
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