Death fills the rental car,
and you think, It wouldn’t be so bad.
There’s dreaminess, a cushioning
of the night around you, deceptively soft,
as if to cross the divider over the line
into oncoming traffic would be to float, not smash —
as if to drift the other way
over the embankment
would be a slow-motion catapult
into another scene in the movie. Not an ending at all.

At least then I could stop
trying so hard,
you catch yourself thinking, your hands
a vise on the steering wheel,
eyes fixed on the dim flares of the taillights in front of you,
the muscle in your neck
that wants to survive cramped
tight as a fist.
But then there’s that other part of you
that’s still so curious,
that wants to know how your life will turn out —
even knowing that it never turns out —
and that other one, the invisible child,
trustingly asleep in the back seat.
It’s for her sake, perhaps, that you continue to try so hard,
to breathe, to roll down the windows and defog the windshield,
to stay awake tonight whether the stars care or not.