American Life in Poetry: Column 587
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
Someone told about a blind man who stood at a busy intersection, waving toward all the passing cars. When asked why he did that, he said that there might be someone in one of those cars whom he knew and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity. Peter Everwine, a California poet, here gives us another such waver, from his book Listening Long and Late, from the University of Pittsburgh Press.
The Girl on the Bullard Overpass
The girl on the Bullard overpass
looks happy to be there, getting soaked
in a light rain but waving her hands
to the four o’clock freeway traffic
in which I’m anything but happy.
You might think she’s too dumb
to come in out of the rain, but rain
or shine, it doesn’t seem to matter.
She’s there most every afternoon,
as if she does this for a living.
Some living, I’d say. Doesn’t she ever
get bored, or wish someone would stop
and say, “Where to?” and her life would change?
That’s how I’d be, hating the noise,
the stink of exhaust, the press of people.
I can’t imagine what her life is;
mine is confused and often fretful.
But there’s something brave about standing alone
in the rain, waving wild semaphores
of gladness to impatient passersby
too tired or preoccupied to care.
Seeing her at her familiar station
I suddenly grin like a fool, wave back,
and forgive the driver to my right,
who is sullen and staring as I pass.
I find her in my rear-view mirror,
then head for a needed drink and supper.
I don’t know where she goes, but I hope
it’s to a place she loves. I hope the rain
lets up. I hope she’s there tomorrow.
American Life In Poetry does not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Peter Everwine, “The Girl on the Bullard Overpass,” from Listening Long and Late (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). Poem reprinted by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2016 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.