Mara and I have the good fortune of having friends and colleagues who write funny poems to commemorate events, in a mild poetic roast that makes the target feel known and loved. This poem began as an attempt to respond with humor to the fatigue some of my neighbors expressed at a long period of obstructed driving, as trunk lines were laid in to provide city water and sewer to what had been farmland. Under the lightness emerged a poignant expression of longing for a smooth way home.
Prayer to the Spirit of the Road
On the occasion of the installation of city services
This is a prayer to the spirit of the open road.
Not the open road leading west, off to mountains
and rocky, lawless adventure.
The spirit of that road hoots and hollers,
cajoles and, when you least expect it,
bucks off on its bronco and leaves you
staring at its dust, as if it had all been a mirage.
Not to the spirit of the open freeway either,
guardian angel spirits hovering over those who drive
too fast, changing lanes and making time,
taking risks and turning long, flat curves into cliff edges.
The spirits of that open road fret and murmur,
willing us to want safety rather than speed.
No, this is a prayer to the spirit of the road that leads us home,
the road at the end of our driveway,
that sends us off each day and holds the very moment
of our return. This is the road that harbors our mailbox
and ties us to a place in this world where people
can address us, knowing they will find us.
This spirit makes no noise at all but smooths our going out
and our return. It wants our road open.
Spirit of the homeward road, comfort those in the last months
of water pipes and sewer pipes and gutters and curbs
and all the heavy machinery that for a time
have made you their nest, raising their young asphalt
on our doorsteps, like house finches nesting
in the hanging planter, forcing us to skulk in
at the side door until the little ones fledge.
Give strength to those who must yet a little while
raise their thresholds,
drive slowly through ruts and past stakes and over
the earth piles
that for a time have disguised you.
Remind us that somewhere
above the trench and beneath the cloud of noise
you are there.
--Karen Lynn Erickson
Invitation for your writing:
The coming weeks provide a wealth of occasions in many traditions for celebration: religious observance, the new year for some calendars, family gatherings and cultural celebrations of identity. Choose an event and a recipient; see what happens when you set out to write a poem for the occasion, funny or tender or both, and then give it to the person who was in your mind as you wrote it!