by Joseph Chelius

At a Turnpike Rest Stop with My Grown Son
For Andrew

Only moments ago, on our way to the wedding,
we were snug in the enclave of our well-packed car,
the miles ticking by as we shared the old jokes
with mother and sister, hemmed in
by snacks and suitcases, the sprawled acoustic
in the hard bed of its case, blocking the rear window.
Now, at adjacent urinals, we stare
ahead as if respecting the decorum
of a grittier world where men in silence
come to do their business—ordinary travelers
with a common need.
And here in this place of porcelain and mirrors—
of rank odors cut by disinfectant—
it is easy enough when I close my eyes
to imagine my son a bearded stranger:
in sandals, a Phillies red cap,
but giving off so affable a vibe
I am drawn to wonder what sort
of life he leads, where he might be going,
whether in a different time or place
we might be friends—
my reverie broken as he zips and flushes
and I am reminded of our separateness,
when like a parting son, he moves away.


Art by Steve Johnson on Instagram @artbystevej