Mileage

July 21, 2016

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,

despite himself,

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.

 

Low Water, No BirdsLow Water, No BirdsLake Abert, Oregon