The Rival in the Road
by Ellin Anderson
26 May 2004
May's leafy roadside swells and hurtles by.
Rushing against the force that has me pinned,
I point the air vent up, undo my tie,
As my red car and I pour like the wind
Over a wooded slope that's more or less
Lovely, sun-colored, newly washed with rain.
Piloting scarlet foil to living green
And anchored by the lines, I move from pain
Breathing in lilacs and hot gasoline.
Where snowy hawthorns melt against dark pines
(Like fickle brides who wear a scent that covers
The show of blossoms and the hidden spines),
A soaring kestrel banks, descends and hovers
Above my fellow traveler for this ride:
A lonely runner, one I seem to know.
Decreasing distance gives identity
To someone who, not very long ago
(Before love failed, and died),
I saw as keeping happiness from me.
Owning the pavement, just as he owns her,
Weaving from side to side, capricious dance;
Blind to the presence of the challenger
Who chose the same route, by apparent chance,
He feels his muscles working, as mine are
To grip the sweaty wheel, to freeze my face
In rippling panic, rising from my fear
Of what black laurels could reward this race,
When, as he nears my car,
I see the headphones, realize he can't hear.
But, by some providence, he veers away;
The mirror lets me watch his form recede.
Beautiful deer, you'll run another day;
I'll invent other wounds and watch them bleed.
If we decide to live with misery,
Our greatest terror, for a final thought,
Will be to know, the day our lives are gone,
We could have made the crossing, but would not
Honor the pain, and let it go. Drive on.
Ellin Anderson has won many awards for poetry in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. A lifelong resident of Massachusetts, she was born in Boston in 1958, graduated from The Pingree School in 1976, and received a B.A. in Art from Mount Holyoke College in 1982.
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