Driving Academy: notes from my first day on the highway by Joe Andrews

A month before I turn 32
and I’m paying a lot to die today.
My instructor might be a priest or a
fool; I adjust the seat, the mirrors,

he sips his coffee and exhales his faith
that I’m a good driver, and not to overthink it.
He knows me well or can read my knuckles
on the wheel, marble white. I turn the key.

When wading the car through street traffic,
when on the freeway, the ankle is king.
Fast is a matter of more flexion.
Sitting still at seventy for an hour on

the freeway, and my right shin feels
like a hot coal. Outside Windsor, we’re not
stuck in this mid-morning traffic,
we’re participants. And when traffic

is seventy, sixty-five is a new slow.
It hits me people live here, in this steel
dance of sustained near misses,
that we’re in some terrible hurry

to be somewhere else. I envy my
expensive passenger, who can look around.
I can only see where we’re going. And as we do
he tells me of the nearby fields,

dotted with barns and strip malls.
In pairs, long skid marks attest others have
lost the highway. But the field grass and poppies,
thistles and garbage, all a blur along the shoulder,

look as if nothing wrong ever happened.

 

 

 

Joe Andrews is a recent graduate from San Francisco State University where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English. After breakfast he writes before he heads off to his job as a shift lead at a small natural foods store in Northern California. He’s proud to say this is his first publication.