Every day I ride a tide of gasoline

down route 539

home to work

and every day I ride it back

up route 539

work to home.

My foot on the accelerator is a moon

marshaling the ebb and flow

that washes away the hills

and drowns the declines

along route 539.

I ride in a line with other commuters — body surfers, single-file, lap-lane-style

kept dry in wet-suits made by

Ford, Dodge, and Chevrolet,

Toyota, and Honda too.

We carved this valley through the pines,

for route 539.

People tell me it’s a road

but I know better.

One bright day, after the snow, I saw a great white yacht marked

“WIDE LOAD” getting towed

on route 539

that river

poison river

River Styx to squirrel and deer and human

before their time

crossing route 539.

Ever since I saw that yacht

turn hard-a-starboard, bear its keel

and sink

into the icy horizon, beyond the trees

I’ve been flicking my eyes at the rear-view mirror

waiting for a freak-wave

to swallow me

and cast me into the haunted wood

that was vivisected

by route 539.

And when I wake — if I wake — who knows what awaits me there?

We’ve all heard of that Jersey devil

but

for some reason

I keep imagining a lost field

of tall winter wheat

hidden by the rocking evergreens

where I would lay like a snow-angel

beneath the wind

forever sleeping

never dying

dreaming

of route 539.

Micah Langer grew up in Princeton Junction. After eight years playing music and studying French and Yiddish translation in Montreal, Quebec, he is back in New Jersey. He works for a handyman and is learning to become a carpenter.

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