Keeping My Cool in Road Construction

I am drifting in a stream of traffic

down a road behind a monstrous machine

that is painting yellow ribbons

on the pavement to remind me that

I shouldn’t even think of passing.

It is hot; I roll down the windows,

and my thoughts shift to the flag persons

I have just passed, two young women,

hardly more than girls, holding up

fluorescent signs that say, “Slow!”

Those girls were hot; I am slow —

just crawling along listening to the radio

and wondering what the migrant workers

were harvesting a few miles back,

the row of their backs weaving through a field

next to a row of rusty trailers with clotheslines

of work clothes waving in front of each one.

Some jobs really suck,

but I don’t work anymore, and I have plenty

of time to get where I am going in this

parade that is moving so slowly that I feel

like a homecoming queen perched above

the back seat of a vintage convertible.

I wave to my jealous friends, who look a lot

like a row of purple asters growing in a ditch.

Now the marching band is half-stepping

around the corner of North Street, ready to burst

into “High School Cadets” when it hits

Mill Street in full stride.

I would be wearing my orange and black uniform

and playing my clarinet if I weren’t the queen

and if I weren’t so mesmerized by these

yellow lines that look like crepe-paper streamers

hanging on a goal post on a windless night.

Joan Wiese Johannes

Joan Wiese Johannes has been widely published in journals/anthologies and has three chapbooks and a book of poetry. Her chap Sensible Shoes was the winner of the Alabama Poetry Society’s contest in 2009 and her full-length collection, Lamenting My Failure to Learn How to Tap Dance and Other Missteps will be published by Water’s Edge Press later this year. Winner of the 2011 regional poetry award from the Mississippi Valley Poetry Society, Joan has also received awards from Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, Wisconsin People and Ideas, The HAL Contest, Free Verse, and English Journal.  She co-edited the 2012 Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar and the 2019 Winter issue of Bramble with her husband Jeffrey.

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