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.