HIGHWAY MIRAGE
by Dale Dewoody 

Highway Mirage

“Near the highway surface, grazing rays from the sky in front of us pass down from higher cooler air to warmer rarefied air and back up again into our eyes…If a mountain rather than the sky is properly located, then we see mountain light refracted up to us from below. In this way, any object near the horizon can be seen.” – from Color and Light in Nature by David K. Lynch and William Charles Livingston

Eight hours of sun transmutes the grey concrete interstate into glass—
not quite liquid or solid.  Some of us can’t quite follow the rules.
Like light, we behave as both wave and particle, bending
in the heat to create mirror images of the horizon in mercurial pools.

If I could just move fast enough, maybe I could reach
that translucent divide between worlds—
re-visit every wasted Thursday afternoon. Take some time to drive back
down this highway.  Follow every backroad until it succumbs to decay:
broken bridges, dead ends, abandoned grain silos, cemeteries.
Watch the old farmer drive the rusty blue tractor in slow circles,
rolling the dried grass into hay. Sometimes I’m envious;
for once, I want everything to quit moving.

Maybe this time, we finally say what we never could.  Maybe
I’ll take myself more seriously.  Drive away from
that ephemeral realm before I slip outside
of the margins.
Backtrack the hours and mistakes—try to get back in focus.
Keep following the interstate until sunset’s shadows absorb all those mirages,
turning them into the distant auras of headlights, streetlamps, airplanes and satellites.
The syncopated sway of searchlights on the horizon silhouettes the unknown—
I know why the moth seeks the flame.

First Sounds of Spring
 
The soft coos of the Mourning Dove drift through
the truck’s open window as I turn down Highway 16.
Frost hides in the long shadows where the trees
block the early morning sun. Spring’s first victory.

Cows march in straight lines towards the feeding troughs like commuters
filling the interstate.  Only one stays behind.  Sometimes,
I try to escape this illusion. Search the forgotten
highways and county roads—trying to rediscover America.
I want this to matter.

The contrast of red afterbirth on the cow’s black tail
caught my attention.  She stood weary and helpless,
bellowing visceral lamentations.  I noticed the stillborn
calf as I slowed around the curve. A car honks, and I swerve
back into reality.

Photo at Jackrabbit Trading Post

My dad showed us the old snapshot of himself
in front of a faded yellow sign that proclaimed
“Here It Is” next to a giant, black rabbit.
He said we were going to take our picture in thatexact same spot
We chased the signs for 600 miles, hearing stories about painted deserts,
petrified forests and haunted Navajo court houses.
When we finally pulled up to the yellow sign,
it was coated in fresh paint. The rabbit didn’t look the same.
My dad shook his head slowly, pulled out the worn snapshot—
It’s always too late, he saidas he slipped the photo
into my hand and forced a smile for the new picture.

About the Author:

Dale Dewoody graduated from the University of North Texas with a PhD in English in 2012. He currently abides in Shawnee, OK, with his wife Susan. He does whatever he has to do to get by. He likes to explore the back roads and get into adventures.

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