Driving You Home
By Eric Paul Shaffer

You wonder where I’m taking you.  You don’t follow me,
but you come along for the ride, slamming the door of the truck
              and rolling down the window.   You can’t imagine

until I mention mountains, or better yet, knife-edged gray granite
slicing empty sky, and then you can see where we’re going

on a two-lane black highway winding and rising through conifers–
no, let’s say, pines, junipers, firs evergreen over a brown thatch
of needles edging both sides of the road.   You can see that now,

but neither of us can see further into the forest than the shadows
the trees cast or the darkness distance makes.   Where we sit,

side by side on a cracked blue vinyl seat in the battered pickup,
we can see every detail: the worn knob of the shift, the stick
              thrumming with the engine’s hum, the cracked dashboard

              revealing padding weathered by the sun.  I don’t know
where we are, and I don’t care.   We’re not lost.   We’re together

                           with nothing to say to each other as we tunnel
through the moment as if we were going somewhere.   I count
                           the cones in the road as I swerve around them,

               and I just can’t say what I want to say.   You know
what I mean. I can’t tell the truth or whether you’re listening

                           or even whether, if you were, you’d follow me
               as I follow this untravelled road through the narrow notch
of horizon manufactured by people who knew how to build

passages from one place to another, where to go, and how to get
there. We putter along the way, splashing in spatters of light
               from the sun and shadow from the clouds between us

and what lets us see.   Rain falls in fits and starts and silver
               and pebbles the windshield with starred globes that draw

               the eye and obscure the newly-painted lines.   Finally,
I tell you: I only wanted to be with you for a moment, quiet,
               driving through wind and thin air, seeing each limb

and needle and boulder we pass, enjoying the aimless, looking
around and noticing what we see.   I point again and again

                           to the half-moon between the trees, drifting
away to appear again and again until we realize that the moon
               leads or follows us today.   When we reach the crest

of the divide, I turn around, right in the middle of the highway,
hood crowned with needles, then bed showered with more,

and then back the way we came.   We coast on the long descent
into town, and I drive you home, and when we get there,
               to our fond, brown house on a street of gray houses,

               chain-linked gates, cactus gardens trimmed with brick,
and graveled yards, you see there was never anywhere to go,

               but the going was good, and now that we’re back,
everything is still the same, and all the same, the place looks
a little different, sharper in the sun, more like we belong.