This poem was first published along with the photo in the Summer 2016 edition of Cirque.Mileage
By Matt Witt
A long-haul trucker’s got his shiny red rig parked
on an early Wednesday morning
off Highway 395 in remote eastern Oregon
at a wildlife area at the edge of Lake Abert
where the few tourists that pass by
might stop to snap a scenic picture with their phones
and move on.
Ever since GPS technology came in,
the company knows where he is
every minute of every trip –
exactly where he stopped
and for how long
(after all, how long does a person need
to eat breakfast or make a bathroom stop?)
But GPS doesn’t know everything,
and neither does the company.
They know that he stopped
a regulation amount of time to sleep
in that cramped compartment behind the cab.
They don’t know that he walked
along the curving shore
in his t-shirt that used to be white
and watched the young sun light up
the ridges in the salt-covered mud.
They don’t know that he saw
silver bands of seepage
trying to snake their way
from the bottom of the hill
out to the little bit of actual water
way out in the middle
of the mostly dried-up lakebed.
They don’t know that he thought,
about all the climate change
he wishes he did not see
everywhere he drives.
They don’t know that he climbed
a little ways up the hill behind
so he could see how the water appeared
out of focus and dreamy
with reds, oranges, and yellows
as the fast-moving clouds
kept changing the light.
They don’t know that he sat
for a few minutes
in the silence
doing absolutely nothing
except watching the geese
waddle away from him
like they used to do
at the marsh outside of town
when he was a boy.
In a few days
he will pull that shiny red rig
into the company terminal
and the records will show
that he got as much mileage
out of this trip
as he could,
and that he never wasted
even a single moment.