Praying with Fringes 11/18/2013 – Stopping Along the Way

Stopping along the Way
David Wagoner

Heading south toward campus, my car
stops suddenly, abruptly, almost
on its own. My right foot
has found the brake pedal
before my eyes can admire
a very young possum strolling
across our right of way
at his personal intersection
of human cross-purposes,
some of whose breaks are squeaking
behind us now. The possum
pauses, lowers his gray-pink-
and-sooty snout to drink in
the odor of something
among the fallen and flattened
sycamore leaves. I’ve seen
too many of him lying down
even flatter than seemed
possible beside roads
and in gutters. I realize
my car’s mere presence looming
over him won’t quicken
those four deliberate paws,
won’t urge him out of danger,
but before I can think or make
some warning sign, two cars
are honking. He lifts his head
dreamily, comparing
that sound to some distant sound
somewhere deep, far back
in his old, new mind, then begins
strolling forward again
and up onto the grass
among the unloaded, locked,
and abandoned bicycles
and empties and leaflets left
by fraternal and sisterly
orders on their own ways
to and from understanding
or back to forbidden gardens
and holes in the ground. Again
a car behind me honks.
And another. It’s what geese do
heading south at the beginning
of winter. They want to know
the one in front still believes
they’re there and are trusting her
to be sure where they’re all going.

“Stopping along the Way” by David Wagoner from A Map of the Night. © University of Illinois Press, 2008.

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