The roll-up rear door of the truck is the only thing visible through my bug-stained windshield. I-95 is bumper-to-bumper again, a radio talk show drones on, the topic, love relationships. I tune it out. I’m preoccupied with the frequency, and urgency of lightning strike-static from the coming electrical storm. Soon, even that show stopper loses its audience, and I’m reliving that drive home a year ago. A traffic jam just like this one, the news bulletin interrupting another talk show, my reverie shattered when I heard your flight had gone down in the Atlas Mountains with no reported survivors. That day I was stuck behind another tractor-trailer, hurrying home in case you called to tell me about the flight, that the Moroccan mountains really are violet against the evening sky. The rig inches forward, then stops suddenly, brakes hissing, and I think we always wanted to sleep in those mountains, a mile closer to the stars. The back of the rig now becomes a movie screen, and all the lights suddenly dim. I see an aircraft broken on a great rock-strewn slope, fires burn, acrid smoke everywhere, luggage, belongings, and seat cushions scattered to the horizon. The only body is yours. You are remarkably unmarked wearing black slacks and the gray N.Y.U. sweatshirt I gave you one Christmas. You lie among wild sage, and yellow flowers, a wisp of your light-brown hair moves in the breeze. I want you to rise, but you don’t. The car behind me lays on the horn, the truck has pulled away, and cars move past me on both sides. I no longer hear the static-scratch of distant lightning, just the harsh noises of the freeway. I keep thinking that Trans Air had only one flight today to Marrakech. I need to catch my breath, call your mom, call the airline, but the traffic won’t move, and that horn won’t stop. I slam my fist on the dashboard. The talk show is back on. I turn the radio off. Now there is a green Explorer in front of me, the same color we rented for our last summer vacation at the Jersey shore. I remember conversations on the beach of dreamy locales: Tahiti, the Alps, and Morocco. It was all so far away. We settled on Vermont in autumn, collected red maple leaves, and pressed them in books of poetry. The thunderstorm hits with a deluge, and a wind gust shakes the car. It’ll take more than this to wash the bugs off of the windshield. In the maelstrom, traffic slows from crawl to dead stop. It’ll never move. For the rest of my life I’ll just be here listening to static.
Bill Wunder’s poems have twice been nominated for The Pushcart Prize, and in 2004 he was named Poet Laureate of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. His poems have been a finalist in The Robert Fraser Poetry Competition, The Mad Poet’s Society Competition twice, and The Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards three times. Recently, his work has appeared in The Manhattan Review, Lips, The Paterson Literary Review, Mad Poet’s Review, Drexel University On-Line Journal, Wild River Review, and others. He has read or lectured in many venues, including local schools, James A. Michener Museum, Bucks County Community College, The Poetry Project at The Montgomery Theater and The Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series sponsored by the National Park Service. Via Dolorosa Press in Cleveland, Ohio published Bill’s chapbook titled A Season Of Storms. His book Pointing At the Moon is forthcoming from Wordtech Communications.