Cross Country
By Barbara West

Old green station wagon turns the corner
and makes me think of our ’67 Chevy Bel-Air —big
enough to go across country with us all inside.
I think those were my first sunrises, never quite catching it at the right moment.
Jen and I
redecorating to find the perfect set-up of suitcases
and folding mattress for our gypsy mansion.

At night Grandpa came to the way-back to snore while we
maybe slept.  Jen slept.
Stars out the back window
that slanted so I could look straight up through it.  70 mph
but still you can stare straight at them.

We had sewing cards.  These cardboard pieces
with line drawings of animals (Jen would’ve said “aminals”) on them.
They had holes in them
and you’d thread the yarn along like dot-to-dots,
the yarn had ends
like shoelaces.
My favorite one was a yellow chick
that we’d do with the yellow yarn.  We discovered that
when the back window was rolled down
you could sew them up half-way
and fly them out the window
like kites.
Until one time
I was flying the chick out the window and the string ripped out and it was
bouncing along the highway and gone as the concrete went by fast dot by
dot by dot.

So I tried
not to cry
and yelled at Jennifer
the next time she tried to fly one (maybe the kitten or the lamb)
and I told her what a stupid idea it was.

Last night I dreamed Sarah
our eight-year baby sister
had gone back to get something on the side of the freeway.
But she kept standing there in the second lane, facing me
driving slowly downstream of her.
And just grinning and grinning as the cars brushed past her,
swerving.  Her eyes would follow them, a bit annoyed at their presumption.
Until finally, she turned
and skipped across the right lane
just like she was crossing
a neighborhood street.
Ten minutes later she ran down from the corner where the stop light was and I caught her
on the sidewalk and hugged her held her tight tight, crying as we walked
past the grocery store.

I don’t think Jen ever noticed the yellow chick
was gone
but I noticed the rest of the trip,
all the way to California.
And wondered
if I’d said anything, would whoever was driving have stopped.

(prev. pub. in Small Craft Warnings, 1989)