Heavy Traffic

Nov 20, 2020

Today’s poem is “Heavy Traffic” by Richard D’Abate, who grew up in New York City and moved to Maine in 1971.  He lives in Wells and was the director of the Maine Historical Society.  Richard is the author of a book of poems To Keep the House from Falling In (Ithaca House Press) and his poems recently appeared in Agni Magazine. 

He writes, “ [My process is] always pretty much the same: a concrete experiential fact comes with a feeling—an ineffable emotional charge—that points to something else. What that something else is, is never clear and it takes endless tries and versions and drafts…” In ‘Heavy Traffic’, I think I was getting on I 95 near the Mall road one night near Christmas and the traffic was so backed up that you could look inside each car as though it were a transparent bead, and in every car I saw a human with characteristics but without agency--a version of myself.”

Heavy Traffic
by Richard D’Abate

Think rather this: it isn’t chains 
you’re in—as though abducted from 
your village home and destiny— 
but a progress, or a sacred string, 
in which you hold a rightful place.

Think chaplet, or a rosary 
of lit transparent beads that drape
the earth tonight (and every night,
for all you know, eternally)
like a self-propelling prayer.   

Yes.  And in each bead two eyes,
a little folded human being— 
a bored, a tall, a blistered, a wise, 
a pensive, drunk, impatient, kind,
eager, chatting, primping, lying,

Betrayed, gentle, pliant, dying—
a little folded human like yourself,
tied to neighbors, nose to tail,
but rolling forward, inching on
(for all you know) toward freedom.

Poem copyright ©2020 by Richard D’Abate.