From time to time, driving in the country,
I'm struck by a disturbing image of an unfamiliar road.
A straight two-lane highway lined for miles
by rows of tall trees,
the trunks lean and nutty, bare up to the middle,
then bushy with leaves thick and green, each tree
identically tall, their pointy crowns aimed at the sun.
I may or may not be alone in the car
but I'm always alone on the unfamiliar road when
it suddenly seems familiar.
I tell myself, Ah, here it is again.
I don't know where I’m going or coming from
on that unfamiliar road but each time I think I’m
on it, my heart starts drumming, something
whispers, Look, you will die here
and in a flash I watch my car plunge deep into the arms
of these tall, straight trees.
On a drive to Mount Lassen, the road
suddenly took the shape of the unfamiliar one.
This is the road!
I slowed the car, turned off the radio.
But looking again, Maybe not.
These trees have needles.
No leaves. No slim brown trunks.
So I relaxed.
Once along Highway One
between Stinson Beach and Point Reyes,
I came upon an unfamiliar road that too began
to look familiar.
I pushed on the brake,
tightened my grip on the wheel.
No, look, look! This road curves, it bends.
It’s not the unfamiliar road,
which is very straight and very flat.
There’s a road I drive often along Lake Chabot.
It’s lined with many kinds of trees, all of them
the wrong trees, and the road has sharp curves,
so I know it isn’t the one.
I try not to think about that road.
They say we give ourselves permission to die
a certain way
and then wander into that death
like a sleepwalker.