Traveling through the Vanishing Point
by Christina Hutchins
Driving alone across the country, I never
once got sleepy, oh, once, only an hour
after leaving home, thinking aloud, This
will be a hard trip, but the car was home
to an alertness ever forming.
On the road, stopping whenever I wanted to,
going exactly ten miles over the speed
limit, eschewing cruise control, wanting
my foot subtly playing the accelerator,
I went ninety in western Utah,
not a single other vehicle for a hundred
miles. It was a pearly Sunday morning, & I suppose
most people in Utah, standing still in shafts
of light, were singing hymns of life everlasting,
facing the same morning I faced.
Just salt flats & two pencil lines
drawn parallel into the vanishing point,
I was so happy, wheels shaping
the sound of paving into a rush of water
under me. Time & existence widened.
Maybe my knowledge of love began in the car
while I stood behind my father, reading his mind.
I was small enough to stand tall on the floor
behind the front seat, my head near his,
holding onto the curve of the seat,
its plastic upholstery under my fingers. & maybe
more than I allow myself to know, what I need
of love’s presence finds itself already behind time
& death, & maybe the hymns do sing lasting
life abundant. Seatbelts, car seats, head rest
no one had them yet. So I rode on both feet,
watching the road shape itself as we went,
& listening to my father’s silent thoughts,
his worries about money, broken things,
the car needing repairs. What about
the car, Daddy? What are we going to do
about the car? I asked aloud, his worry
my fear, a kind of fire ripping through my chest,
child’s desperation, & something else, too,
new-forming, some compassion, life was
that hard, & my poor father bore it,
& still more, my father lived that hardness for me.
My need existed. Therefore, I existed.
He drove, & his need was for me, no, his need
was for my knowing a home to my need.
The realm of love can be everlasting.
I sped through the Utah morning, & the road
finally curved ahead. I stood behind him.
We proceeded together, & even now the road
surrenders itself under our passage.
Christina Hutchins’s Tender the Maker won the May Swenson Award, and The Stranger Dissolves was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her poems appear in Beloit Poetry Journal, The New Republic, Prairie Schooner, Salmagundi, The Southern Review, and Women’s Review of Books. Awards include The Missouri Review Prize and the Dartmouth Poet in Residence at the Frost Place in Franconia, NH.