At the Department of Motor Vehicles
to renew my driver’s license, I had to wait
two hours on one of those wooden benches
like pews in the Church of Latter Day
Meaninglessness, where there is no
stained glass (no windows at all, in fact),
no incense other than stale cigarette smoke
emanating from the clothes of those around me,
and no sermon, just an automated female voice
calling numbers over a loudspeaker.
And one by one the members of our sorry
congregation shuffled meekly up to the pitted
altar to have our vision tested or to seek
redemption for whatever wrong turn we’d taken,
or pay indulgences, or else be turned away
as unworthy of piloting our own journey.
Pausing to look around, I used my numbered
ticket as a bookmark, and it was as if the dim
fluorescent light had been transformed
to incandescence. The face of the Hispanic guy
in a ripped black sweatshirt glowed with health,
and I could tell that the sulking white girl
accompanied by her mother was brimming
with secret excitement to be getting her first license,
already speeding down the highway, alone,
with all the windows open, singing.
This poem appeared in the October 4, 2012 issue of the magazine.