“Ode to the Mattress on the Side of the Interstate” by William Fargason

William Fargason


Broken and waving, I catch you barely
out of the corner of my passing window,
sitting there under the overpass, fallen out
of a truck like common trash. Your broken
back arched over the guardrail, your open cavity
torn at the side like Christ, like a woman’s

shawl unpinned, blowing in the hot air.
How many secret nights are you spilling
out? Whose nights are they now? I’m tired
as hell from another night where I wake up
sweating, but I have to keep driving past
you in the edge of the waist-high grass,

the overgrown kudzu all but forgotten.
You can no longer provide a safe night
to anyone, you are nothing anyone craves.
I want to pick you up, strap you to the roof
and keep driving, I could find another bed,
a bigger bed, for you to rest on, we could sleep

so long we forget what day it is. I can,
I could try to find us both a home—away
from the cold wind of passing cars, any home
warm and sweet—but am I too many miles away
from you now, too far to turn back? Would I even
remember where you are, which mile marker?

from Rattle #67, Spring 2020


William Fargason: “I was taking a trip up to Nashville to see my wife run a half marathon, and I saw this mattress all alone on the side of one of the interstate interchanges. I don’t remember anything about that nine-hour drive other than that mattress, but I knew that by seeing it, a poem had been given to me. Sometimes, in the writing of poems, you don’t get a say in the matter. The next morning, the whole family left for the marathon but forgot to wake me up and take me with them, so I awoke to an empty house, and I wrote this poem.” (web)

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