“Joy Ride” by Karen Benke

Karen Benke


I tell my son I wish I didn’t have to go to work today
and he says he wishes he didn’t have to go to school.
He’s tired of darkening in right answer bubbles.
I ask what we’d do if we could play hooky and he says
we’d go through the tunnel and pick up Nana Friday,
wondering if people who died can come too.
You know, like Grandpa Don and Auntie Toots?

So we pile into the VW and veer over the center line
of what reality doesn’t allow. I accelerate past the turn off
to his school, my father cautioning me to slow down
while my aunt sings a Lou Rawls song she knew.
Traveling an unnamed highway of light,
no longer concerned about getting anywhere on time,
we pass around baggies of sliced apples and almonds,
my father nodding his handsome face at the grandson
he never knew who wants details about where he’s been.
So I lean in to listen—Oh, pretty much everywhere, Angel,
he assures, explaining there aren’t any tests or distance
where he is now. You just love who you love.
And that’s the right answer to everything.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
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