Merging from highway to interstate we follow an overpass
that passes over another overpass that passes over
another overpass that passes over the earth.
We’re lifted so high that either side of the road
is nothing but dizzying air, as though the planners considered
sending cars up to the clouds, and could have, but stopped
with these stacks and stacks of concrete, gargantuan, fluted
like the pillars of ancient temples, altars to a pagan
god of atomized speed. Sterile fruit of human labor,
accomplishment almost geological. If ever we disappear
from the earth, leaving only plants and animals to regain
purchase on some semblance of that to which we’ve laid waste,
I think nothing will seem so empty and deserted as these over-
passes, mysterious and lonely, almost comical
but mostly sad, impressive columns and arches filling
a wide silence, bleached white by the fossilizing sun,
tracing scimitar curves over scarred soil. I see large birds
floating over them in the radiated haze like warplanes
over dusty tarmac. I see under the moon’s limpid gaze
a coven of survivors thinking back on how their harried
time was spent, how there was never any room to wonder,
each next built event a derivation, logical consequent
in a nameless process to which they’d all signed on
simply by arriving. There could be no passing over,
no blood over the doors to plead and discover escape.
And so we pass each other over, racing contoured paths
over and over, passing over to a place we think we know
we need to be. I grip the wheel and merge,
again, again. The overpasses shrink into horizon,
shifting subtly, as do we, into some older story’s shape.
Author’s Commentary: This poem was inspired by an overpass I traverse on my daily commute to work. From that origin point, reflecting on the etymology and associations of the word 'overpass' led me in opposing directions, one Biblical and one dystopian, and the poem follows those two competing strands.
Tim DeJong teaches English at Baylor University. The recipient of two Pushcart Prize nominations, he has published poems in Booth, Rattle, Modern Language Studies, Forge, Common Ground Review, and other journals. He lives with his wife and three children in Woodway, TX.