The August 28 U.S. 1 story about the history of Route One — “Highway to History” — inspired reader Howard Lieberman to send in his own thoughts regarding the our Number One highway. But unlike our prose account, the Princeton surgeon, member of U.S. 1 Poets Cooperative, and a past contributor to the U.S. 1 Newspaper Summer Fiction Issue took a sharp and unlikely turn and transformed what for many is a daily grind into stuff of poetry.

 

CONGESTED by Howard Lieberman

I could walk, of course,

I could wave to the cars

as I pass them by. The drivers,

on the other hand, would look

at me grumbly, imagine themselves

running me down. I would not blame them.

This is the slowest moving highway in the world.

It is almost as slow as the Holland Tunnel

during rush hour, except that Route One

is like this all the time. Each day

I get up earlier. Yesterday it was hardly light.

Sunlight was just scratching at the edge of our atmosphere,

announcing the start of another day.

I had thought I would beat out the crowd,

so I skipped breakfast and sped down to the highway,

but everyone else had thought the same thing.

Too many people. Too many cars.

One of these days it will all stop.

The drivers will fling open their doors,

get out, and walk away.

Another end to a world we just don’t understand.

* * *

Inspired by the Lieberman’s poem, “Highway of History” writer Dan Aubrey offered his own thoughts aobut the highway and his own personal history with it:

Highways today are what water ways used to be other generations. So it wouldn’t be wrong to think of U.S. 1 as a type of Delaware River. And just like that river, daily travelers learned to live with it and in it.

My relationship with U.S. 1 started early in the 1950s. I was a child when my parents crammed us into an non-air conditioned car and took a pre-Route 95 summer journey to Florida.

Since it was my first road trip and I was young, I didn’t realize how uncomfortable it all was and took a fondness to the congested — rather than open — road.

Years later after I moved to Trenton and worked in New Brunswick I was on it every morning and every night and once I learned to slow down I began to learn its secrets.

And my interest in art and writing strengthened my seeing. In addition to the photographic works by George Tice, there was a New Jersey movement of artists exploring contemporary forms and shapes. Then there was the writing. Often I would see New Jersey poets — Allen Ginsberg and William Carlos Williams — mentioning NJ highways and encouraging me to think of the road under my tires as something more than meets the eye. The U.S. 1 Poets Cooperative solidified it. And so did this newspaper named for a highway filled with stories of business, art, and life — and me.

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