Interstate Highway

James Applewhite


for our daughter, Lisa

As on a crowded Interstate the drivers in boredom
      or irritation speed ahead or lag (taken with sudden
enthusiasms for seventy-five), surging ahead a little by
                  weaving between lanes but still
staying pretty much even, so too the seeker in language
      ranges ahead and behind--exiting and rejoining
a rushing multitude so closely linked that,
                  if seen from above, from the height
of the jet now descending, we present one
      stasis of lights: feeling our freedom though
when seen from above, in the deepening twilight,
                  the pattern we bead is constant.
So we have traveled in time, lying down and waking
      together, moved illusions, each cubicle with
tables and chairs, beds where our cries arose
                  lost in the surging engines.
Yet the roomlight where we made our love
      still cubes us in amber. Out of the averaging
likeness, Pavlovian salivation at the bell
                  of a nipple, our lives extract their
time-thread, our gospel-truth. While Holiday
      Inn and Exxon populate the stretch
between Washington and Richmond with lights,
                  I rewrite our pasts in this present:
recalling your waking, dear wife, to find
      a nipple rosier, we not yet thinking a child
though impossibly guessing her features
                  the feathery, minutely combed lashes
the tiny perfect nails, though not yet
      the many later trees at Christmas. Now
I know only backwardly, inscribing these sign-
                  ings that fade as the ink dries.
Remembering the graphlike beading of darkness,
      I recall the ways that time once gave us--
distracted by signs for meals and clothing,
                  travelers, heavy with ourselves
defining the gift that bodies carry,
      lighting the one, inner room, womb for
our daughter. Seeing from above, I read
                  this love our child embodies.
From Quartet for Three Voices by James Applewhite. Copyright © 2002 by James Applewhite. Reproduced with permission of Louisiana State University Press. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

Last Night We Saw South Pacific by James Applewhite
wake to see a cardinal in our white

Further Reading

Poems About Daughters
A Little Tooth
by Thomas Lux
A Newborn Girl at Passover
by Nan Cohen
A Prayer for my Daughter
by W. B. Yeats
by Derek Mahon
Daughters in Poetry
by Eavan Boland
Daughters, 1900
by Marilyn Nelson
For a Daughter Who Leaves
by Janice Mirikitani
Heart's Needle
by W. D. Snodgrass
Home After Three Months Away
by Robert Lowell
by Elizabeth Alexander
Morning Song
by Sylvia Plath
My Daughter All Yourn
by Farid Matuk
My Daughter Among the Names
by Farid Matuk
Poems about Daughters
Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah
by Patricia Smith
The Bistro Styx
by Rita Dove
The Pomegranate
by Eavan Boland
The Writer
by Richard Wilbur
Today A Rainstorm Caught Me
by Matt Hart
Waiting for Rain
by Ellen Bass