Single Mother in Traffic
by Rick Bailey

We're all in this together--then again
we aren't. She's the only one

with her window down and the wild
overheated baby. She looks over

her shoulder, hands him a cookie, her smile
worth nothing to him. She must go to school

these summer nights, farm the boy out
to nightcare with mother or aunts

and after class, over coffee, is a man
who talks about the food chain,

worries about the slow melt of Antarctica,
and the dying krill, and, while it's still there,

wouldn't she like to go with him? A puff of smoke,
traffic starts up, and I lose her. Now

it's just the rest of us. We inch forward,
stop and wait, impatient to get home,

stopped so long, if it were any hotter,
we might stick to the pavement and stay here

forever. A few cars ahead, the woman and child.
Tonight she will stay home, put her child to bed,

lie awake in her hot apartment. I will
do much the same, in those last mute

moments before sleep, living backward
through the day, back to her and her child

in traffic. So many people going home,
needing rest. Alone in her bed she will dream

of blue nights on that continent of ice, slowly,
like everything, slowly becoming something else.

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