Driving west, we’d stopped for gas,
toilets, and snacks; rows of corn
waving like the Sirens to Odysseus.
The pump jockey stared at
our New York plates: a possible
Deliverance moment? Burying us
in the cornfield behind the station,
for being hippie draft dodgers.

The kid, with his tassel-white cowlick, gushed,

“Man, I’d love to see the Empire State Building,
a Broadway show, eat in a famous restaurant.
So y’all on your way back there?” Even if
he planned to kill us, rude not to answer:

“San Francisco,” spilled in a ragged chorus.

“I’d like to go there, too,” he sighed,
“all the hippies, sample righteous weed.
Ain’t nothing here for excitement, ‘cept
the odd twister, which even if they’re scary
as shit, at least break the monotony.”

I could see he was this close to asking us
to take him along, and we were this close
to urging, “Come on, plenty of room,”
except he knew he couldn’t just leave
everything he knew, everything safe.

Besides, we’d be home in a month.
If he left, he’d never come back.

Robert Cooperman’s latest collection is REEFER MADNESS (Kelsay Books). Forthcoming from Apprentice House is GO PLAY OUTSIDE and from FutureCycle Press, BEARING THE BODY OF HECTOR HOME.