Luke Johnson

Milepost Sixty-Four

The sun forgets itself where the James
crosses the Alleghenies, river like glass

or asphalt in the sunset’s half-current, a woman
on a road-shoulder, motor idling. She’s driven

the afternoon with flowers on her front seat.
Her hands are in her lap and she can see

the sun lingering: the halting skyline.
Summer days demand release: her son’s

death at this curve, his shards of vehicle adorning
riverbank. She has only the next morning,

her laurel and blooming rhododendron.
She has time set like an engine

to whirl: the bouquet’s heft as she
carries it to halved guardrail, the valley’s mercy

in seeming to cradle her between separate
moments as she ties, as if holding to a dusklit

present without sirens or the inevitable next-instant
could allow her tomorrow. The river persists in

its running. Sun relents to night. When the blooms dry,
she will not replace them. Still, wildflowers will try.

Luke Johnson is the author of After the Ark (NYQ Books, 2011). His poems have appeared in Epoch, New England Review, Poetry Daily, Southwest Review, Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. He is a graduate of the writing program at Hollins University.