Ed owns the road.

I don’t.

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,

route 87,

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

but himself,

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.