A Poem for Anyone Making a Long Drive with Family Today

A poem about an intimate moment during a long family drive

Seattle: 1953

The traffic lights went green yellow red
down the empty street in front of us
like a small mindlessness captured forever
in the double mirror of a barbershop.

Three in the morning, Dad, good citizen
stopped, waited, looked left, right.
He had been driving nine hundred miles,
had nearly a hundred more to go,
but if there was any impatience
it was only the steady growl of the engine
which could just as easily be called a purr.

I chided him for stopping;
he told me our civilization is founded
on people stopping for lights at three in the morning.
He was in that kind of mood.
My sisters were sprawled asleep in the back,
my mom was nodheaded beside me, lightly snoring.
I saw us all in a city where everyone
had died, traffic lights going on like a kind
of technological hair or fingernails
while Dad tells me about our civilization.
Beside us in a dimly lit laundry
empty suits were hung in rows
with numbers waiting on their sleeves.

–Bruce Hawkins.