Ed owns the road.
And he does the hard work.
You can tell that by the cracks in his hands.
He looks fearsome
if you don’t know him
with those pitted cheeks
and hard stone eyes.
He’s fearsome even if you do know him.
The title to that stretch of asphalt,
is held by Ed
when he grips the wheel
of his old pickup,
cranks it up to high gear,
and rattles and rocks and farts his way
to the next job.
He works for no one
takes no shit
from any of his customers.
He smells of dark coffee and cigarette smoke
and for every scar on his chest
there’s a devil tattoo to watch over it.
He takes no pleasure in reading,
and hasn’t stepped inside a church
since he was twelve
But Ed is always up for a fight
and won’t resort to that rusty chain
unless there’s two of them
to one of him.
He’s been with Bess the waitress
since I can remember.
Folks are surprised
that she’s never showed up
at the diner
bruised and bloodied.
But she once confessed
that he’s as gentle and playful
as a cub
when they’re alone together.
Some nights, he smooths out his own edges
by holding her ‘til morning.
I’m on 89
driving a late model Japanese compact.
It’s just for pleasure, not lifestyle,
for having something to do
on an otherwise dull day.
I don’t tote landscaping equipment.
I don’t travel with a dog
who’s part wolf.
I don’t get in bar brawls
or go home to the comfort
of someone as weathered
but affectionate as Bess.
I’m traveling down a highway
that’s the property of someone else.
There’s no toll to pay.
Just a sneaking admiration.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. He has been recently published in New Plains Review, Stillwater Review and Big Muddy Review with work upcoming in Louisiana Review, Columbia College Literary Review and Spoon River Poetry Review.