On The Road (Sestina)

A long drive started as day succumbed to a sleepless night,
they were sitting side by side in the front of his beat-up car,
and staring out through a windshield splattered with rain,
which blurred the winding road ahead and shrouded the stars.
They were tethered together, in the process of leaving,
tired of stalling and waiting, looking to move forwards.

With streetlight’s sparse dark deepened as they pushed forward
cutting along the roads, two headlights piercing the night,
and with each silent gas station they passed he was leaving
family who’d find an empty wardrobe, a garage without a car.
But they had to leave that small town – she wanted to be a star,
and he was happy to follow her anywhere, tired of the rain.

They both wanted clear Californian skies, a place where rain
was rare and the days didn’t drag, but rushed forward.
Where they could stand by the Pacific and watch the stars
buy a castle, live their own fairy-tale; he’d be her knight;
they could pay the first few months rent by selling the car.
After they’d settled, they’d never consider leaving.

As they crossed the Utah state line he realised that leaving
made him notice the waterfall patterns intersecting in the rain
like crossroads, and he remembered holidays in his parent’s car,
the Summer in his teens that they’d spent moving forwards
across the country (his first time leaving), sleeping at night
in a faded tent and singing songs together beneath the stars.

Were those lighting their journey now the same stars
as the ones he’d watch fade in the sun before leaving
in those mornings, after marshmallow campfires at night?
He looked then at his driver, her hair still damp with rain
and he spoke in soft, loving tones whilst leaning forward,
asking her to pull over into a gravel lay-by, to stop the car.

Stepping out into the cold midnight air he leaned on the car,
taking deep, bloating breaths and thinking under the stars,
the lump in his throat had him wondering if moving forward
was what he deserved for not saying anything before leaving.
He pictured his family asleep, his dog sheltering from the rain
and then cursed himself for running away, a coward in the night.

Climbing back into the car, he told the driver this wasn’t leaving,
it was fleeing under stars with the engine’s roar drowned out by the rain,
and that moving forwards should be done during a different night.


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