Leveler Poetry Journal
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A Moving Vehicle

When the squirrel crossed the road in front

of the Driver’s Ed car, my foot fumbled

the brake.  I wasn’t ready, was yet to learn

the parts of a metaphor: tenor and vehicle.

The tenor is the thing itself, and the vehicle

takes us away from it to something else,

but the tenor is still singing in a high, vibrant

voice in the backseat, maybe warming up

in the cab on the way to the opera house,

and the cabbie is transported to his homeland,

a particular ritual involving keening, grief.

Somehow they make it to and through the light

without an accident, neither of them paying

sufficient attention to external reality, but it’s green,

the light, and not raining, and the tenor needs

to get there by three, so there isn’t much traffic,

and the vehicle is in good operating condition,

a requirement of the license; the brakes are good.

The squirrel is a rare one, black, with an airy tail

reminiscent of a feather duster.  The dispatcher

brings the cabbie back from Africa to his next

fare, but the tenor doesn’t see it coming

down the telephone pole, a shadow or a hand.

Kathleen Kirk