In the aching darkness of this cold night
I drive through the long slopes of winter
in the Flint Hills.
A wind-anchored chill
locks ice and snow along the shoulder
from El Dorado northward.
The flickering reds of traffic miles ahead
trace trails moving through the curves
and along the road,
Paralleled by opposite lines of headlights
drifting off into the night
on their outward bends.
Steady at the limit
and with them five miles slower,
I pass truck after truck after truck.
Halfway to Topeka,
a low flatbed stacked high with propane tanks
banks by me on a downhill run.
We leapfrog up and down
the next few humps
until the last long slant before Emporia.
From there he pulls away bit by bit,
all the steep slopes behind him,
making his way against the wind and darkness,
Running eighty miles-an-hour
toward wherever it is
that stands between him and home.
I hope that something
stronger than blankets
will keep him warm tonight.