Carrying Our Loads

Driving at night, my car a silent capsule pulled along the freeway’s string,
big rigs with great dane snouts crawl up behind me, nudge the air, snort
at bumpers like chained bulls. Cat-eyed lights rake my car’s packed
interior, reveal a single me, uneasy as a paper target at a shooting range.

The drivers in frayed cowboy hats or trim Stetsons, with old-god faces
dulled with the opium of miles, don’t detour from their compass
of purpose. Wanderlust is their only desire. Neither smiling
nor frowning, they grumble truck gears, pull out, wobble

my small car with their long trailers of secrets outlined in lights
like rodeo carnival rides. The drivers are guardians of roundups
I can’t see: apples, aliens, oil, calves, chemicals, or radioactive
uranium. Level with wheels, I watch the revolution of tires,

the rubber braille-bumps the roads thin to flung black
curls I mistake for fallen animals. Sometimes real ones rise
from the grass–hunted deer seeking safety in no-gun zones
who grow crazy with the consistency of headlights, leap

like saints into the promise of chrome. The drivers swerve,
but in the country music of night, no one stops for shadows,
or deer bounding into grass, though we glance in mirrors
that look back at all the shattered songs we leave behind.

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About the Author

Carolyn Dahl is the 2020 winner of the Poetry of the Plains and Prairies chapbook contest for A Muddy Kind of Love, which will be published by North Dakota State University. Her 2019 chapbook, Art Preserves What Can’t Be Saved, was a first place winner in the National Federation of Press Women’s Communication contest, the Press Women of Texas’ contest, and also received an Honorable Mention in the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.

Carolyn Dahl
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