The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Jen Garfield


After we graduate and before we leave
the Midwest for good, we pack the car
for our last trip together.  We trace a route

on the big road atlas with orange marker.
Leave before dawn so when the sun rises
we’re too far from the city to remember

where we came from.  Each night we heat
canned soup over a propane stove and look
for the Milky Way.  When the car stereo

breaks, find a hand-held radio at an outlet
mall and listen to local news.  Somewhere
near Lake Superior, we buy a yard sale book

printed on pulp paper called Varieties
of Milkweed.  You drive, I read aloud:

Milkweed:  A common weed.  Scientific name:
as-klee-pea-us. Also known as Milk Maid.
Ice-Ballet Weed. Green Comet Weed.  Soon,

you’ll be on your way to California
in a U-Haul, mattress strapped
on the roof.  I’ll be on a plane to New

England with three duffel bags, no
apartment.  Keep going, you say:

Monarchs lay their eggs in sprouted milkweed,
then winter in Florida or Mexico.  When they leave,
the milkweed’s poison offers the larvae protection.

The next page is a giant picture of Cinderella
Swamp Weed.  I don't feel like reading anymore
so I tear it out and place it on the dashboard.

We leave it there for the rest of the trip.  Let
the sun shine through.  When it rains, I hold
the weed out the window.  It begins to grow.

Farmland skimmed by
like sped-up microfiche
on our way out of town--

We weren’t looking
for anything in particular,
skimming headlines

from August 1996
with your soft hand
on my thigh.  We were

driving for always,
Neil Young on the
tape deck, nodding

like we were seeing
the same visions
in the same fields.

I remember the air
turned musky without
time passing.  Farmhouse

lights popped up like bells.
The stars were indigo
and we thought we would

see into our future
for a long time.
What I’ve wanted

since that car ride,
even before it took
your life, was to gaze

at a flaky screen with
the news passing by
unseen.  Even now,

years later, I want
to sit next to you
in the still dark corner

of the public library,
to watch the stars
over the dashboard,
to see for a long time.

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