Fuel City

In the Shenandoah Valley,
I-81’s long stretch of midnight,
there’s a metropolis of a truck stop,
a megaplex for tractor trailers
to rest like dragons on their loot
while drivers crowd into the diner
for the late night buffet.

But across the road Smiley’s boasts:
Best Dang BBQ in Virginia!
Inside, a trucker couple eating
brisket and pulled pork agree.
Tim and Mae are their names,
they’re from New Orleans,
shipping industrial-use gases
packaged in small green pyramids
on a trailer covered in hazard warnings,
their cabin has a massive fleur-de-lis
gold and bold against the pearly white.

Over his brisket, Tim talks about Route 2
through the Massachusetts town I’m from,
talks about following it to the Northwest,
calls it, “the best road in America.”
He knows my hometown by its Super Wal*Mart,
he used to ship for them, but drops the subject;
they drive independent now.

Mae loves taking pictures of clouds
she offers me her phone
so I can look at some even though
I’m a sticky-fingered stranger
in a cramped bench eating
barbeque and potato wedges
at one in the morning.
This strikes me as beautiful.

Her photos are amateur, but wonderful:
long eternities of wispy prairie,
storm clouds over St. Louis,
mountains smothered in mist,
and an array of billowy, white
cumulus all over the country.

“Feel free to take a picture of our rig!”
I’m tempted, but it feels invasive
so I don’t. I walk back to my car
through the Virginia mountain cold,
humid southern air condensed,
a dampness engulfing my body
and making the stars in the sky
shine through distant halos
like high beams in the fog.

Donald C. Welch III is a teaching assistant at the Rebecca School for Autism where he runs the Ultimate Crusaders’ Poetry Workshop. His current project @SocialLit (twitter.com/SocialLit) explores new forms of poetry and collaborative writing derived from social media. His work has appeared in Passages NorthSouth85 JournalGravelWar, Literature & The Arts, Inky Needles, The Emerson Review, and elsewhere. His collection of children’s poetry Who Gave These Flamingos Those Tuxedoes? was published by Emerson College’s Wilde Press in 2013. For more on Donald and his work visit: donaldcwelch3.tumblr.com.

Photography by William C. Crawford.