Highways This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 12, 2009
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I remember when my hair was long,
and I kept my sleeves bundled in my fists,
with my fingers wrapped around the warm, white mug.
It felt like it should've been snowing on me,
and I was only happy that it wasn't.
With a sturdy enough grasp on my coffee,
maybe I could disappear.

The only roads we ever knew were the connoted
highways, paved out in complicated turns
in a hot, dirty city
so vast, and so full
that it would leave me empty.
And if I closed my eyes in the car heat that burned the insides of my nose,
maybe I could disappear.

But those wide American roads led us to heartache,
on those rare occasions.
Where my father would lift me onto the railing,
and tell me to look for whales on the ocean side of
the Golden Gate Bridge, and I swore I saw one once.
With a tight enough grasp on my shoe laces,
maybe I wouldn't disappear.

If the city shook, and could take me somewhere else,
I'd go back to that railing.
I would always remember my brother's tiny fingers,
pointing to spot whales he knew he didn't see.
He'd yell down
at the full city that left me warm and awake,
like coffee on those days where it should've been snowing.
I wouldn’t know what coffee was,
until we drove back home to our thin highways,
weaving through the forest where I could never see the ocean.

And if I kept a tight enough grasp on those whales,
and that fog,
and all the wide roads in San Francisco,
then maybe I would disappear into that memory.

Because now my brother sits in the front seat with the window down,
and the heat radiates from the concrete,
burns my nose and I'm tired from my coffee that morning.
And in that moment, I swear I lost touch,
as I'm sure I lost sight of those whales.

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