Maura Stanton

Through the Dark

Word goes out over CB radios,
Over car phones, over emergency call boxes.
Truckers pull over, police cruisers wailing around them
Followed by fire trucks, ambulances, the SWAT team.
Traffic slows, halts. Motorists jump out
Chasing camera crews, and now it's LIVE
On television, and in the Sportsman's Bar
Men crane away from amber beers on the counter
To watch the small set fixed high on the wall,
Observing the flare-lit faces of onlookers
Roped off at the scene, and straining to hear
What's happening, what does this mean?
My husband arrives at the Interstate entrance
To find traffic stopped, but a trucker gets out
Coming back to warn him before he's trapped--
"A lady's shot her husband. Turn around."
And so he's home, only ten minutes late,
Having taken a back route through cornfields.
I go to sleep thinking about that Interstate
My husband drives in the dark once a week,
His small car weaving in and out among
Shadowy semi's heading south for Atlanta
Loaded with machine parts, or lengths of pipe,
And all those other cars driven by men and women
Heading somewhere too, alert or sleepy,
Everyone watching the tail lights up ahead--
Yet every now and then someone's out there
Gripping the wheel, face a burning wound,
Chest full of rocks. Did that lady keep
A pistol in her purse, or turn in desperation
To grab a hunting rifle from the gun rack
Of her husband's pick-up, unable to take
Anymore of something? But our story was garbled.
Next day the newspaper explains the truth,
How a young woman wanted to kill herself,
Depressed because her fiance had cheated.
And so she stopped her car in the center lane,
Holding a pistol to her head. No one
Could talk her out of it--she knew her life
Was over--why not die--until the SWAT team
Filled her car with flash grenades and teargas
And hauled her away, alive, on a stretcher.
Truckers, who'd sat in their rigs for hours
Catching up on paperwork began to inch forward,
The choir got back on the Church Bus,
Drivers pulled off at gas stations to call home
And tell someone who answered on the first ring
Hey, I'm OK. And the divorced mother,
Delayed three hours, her grocery bags wet
From melted ice cream and thawed vegetables,
Hallelujahed the exit for her subdivision.

Maura Stanton's new book of poetry, Glacier Wine, has just been published by Carnegie Mellon. Her book of stories, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, won the Sullivan Prize, and was published by the University of Notre Dame in 2002.