Road Trip

Five sandy-colored cranes saunter through
a front yard in Manchester, Michigan
A dead coyote stretches across a lane
on a highway in the Montana sun
A white shape – a giant plastic bag maybe? –
sits in lily pads on a pond – and then
it fluffs its wings and it’s a swan!
In front of us, something tawny skips across the road
and into a root beer forest – a white-tailed fawn!
“RESIST HATE” reads a bumper sticker in Wisconsin
“THERE WILL BE A WALL” reads a tee shirt in S. Dak
“CA DRMN” reads a license plate in Michigan
“WALL DRUGS” reads a billboard in Idaho’s outback
A rangy motorcycling tourist in leather, his skin
weathered by rain and wind, sleet, sun and snow,
speaks with a Dutch accent or maybe German,
in the Crazy Horse exhibit, and does he know
that an American tourist is watching him and
he’s part of the exhibit for her, and does she know
that she’s part of the exhibit for the folks from France?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Can I Take Your Picture?

Can I Take Your Picture?

“Can I take your picture?” I ask the folks who sit
in a line of rocking chairs in front of a Cracker Barrel
store in Indiana. And they grin for me and I click.
“Can I take your picture?” I ask Joanna and Mitch
in the Anoka Independent Grain and Feed and they
give me broad midwestern smiles and I click.
“Can I take your picture?” I ask the international students
in front of Mount Rushmore and they quickly
line up in rows for me and beam and give me hope
for the world – maybe we’ll survive after all – and I click.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

Poems from a Vacation

Day 1
Before we leave on our southerly trip
I take one last walk down the street
A big dog and a Chihuahua race out
from their driveway, snarling and yipping –
the Chihuahua nipping
while their owner watches –
his hands in his pockets – and shrugs
when I show him the little dog’s bite.
I am snarling myself now, in a rage,
adrenalin coursing, ready for a fight.
But it’s time to leave. I carry the bite
and the rage with me – pack them up
for the trip and load them in the car.

Husband stops for a break at a McDonald’s
– asks me if I want anything. I’m not hungry
– but I guess one of those little parfait things
might be good. He orders one for me.
I go outside to wait. A young man approaches,
asking for money. My wallet is locked up
in the car and I have no key. I’m so sorry.
But just then the husband comes out
with my parfait – the one I didn’t really want –
and I offer it to the man – show him the
granola packet he needs to add. He thanks me
and takes it, and as we drive away I see him
mixing in the granola and eating the parfait
and some of my fiery rage slips away.
Bless him for giving me a chance to be kind.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Day 2
We lie in bed together – a luxurious waking up.
We are on vacation – no job to race to today.
I rest my head on his chest and listen to his heart
beat – steady and strong – I breathe in and out
with his breathing and drift back to sleep.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

The ghosts of our past are
getting out of the car
and seeing the ocean
from Lincoln City, Oregon
for the first time.
The ghosts of Oceans Past
are running on the beach –
strong and young, unaware
of the lessons Life will teach,
and innocent of what lies ahead –
both the good and the bad.
The ghosts of the future are
there, too. Wiser than now,
I hope, and stronger, too –
they have seen what we have
not, yet, and learned lessons
and known losses from a day
to come, and experienced
healings yet to be. And today
we’re in the world between
until then and what has been.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Day 3
The birds watch from the brows
of the barnacled boulders
as humans in their exotic plumage –
pink, purple, yellow, orange, red,
scramble among the rock beds,
searching for shells and agates.
The seagulls no longer worry
about the humans taking their food.
The humans don’t seem in the mood
to look for things to eat –
they don’t want the meat
inside the shells, they seek
the shells themselves! They seek
the rocks! They seek the sea glass!
Seagulls sometimes wonder
about humans’ priorities.
Humans are a puzzle.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

I give a thumbs up and a smile
to the man with the veteran’s cap
on his head and a kite tugging
him to the sky.
He smiles back the smile of a man
on vacation – and lets out the string
so the kite can fly high.
A family from Vancouver passes by
the youngster lugging a rock
as big as an anvil – “No, Buddy. I think
you’re going to have to leave that one here,”
says the father to his son, laughing.
A pair of dogs comes up to greet me,
tails wagging, happy grins on their faces
and I reach down and pet their heads
and notice the dog bite is almost gone
from my ankle.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

(Photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell. Lincoln City, OR.)