Dirt Roads by Elise Hempel

Dirt Roads

Those childhood highway trips I’d stare
out at the passing cornfield miles
from my backseat vantage, wondering where
they went – those intermittent trails

that stretched away in the opposite direction
from our rushing car; I’d strain my eyes
as we made good time, tracing one down
as far as I could, following always

some pick-up’s slow cloud as it bumped along
the thin line of dust, past cows, a farm,
to a town I imagined beyond the shifting
green curtain, a secret place that time

had lost on that road that never arrived
but just kept going forever straight,
then vanished like that as we left it behind,
the pick-up this tiny red speck afloat.

by Elise Hempel, first published in Measure: A Review of Formal Poetry.

Editor’s Note: The imagery in this poem floats along the meter in one long sentence. The breathlessness of the final line mirrors that of a dream, a memory, or a wish.