The Road Agent
She stopped me just inside the door so I
Would know some news for me that couldn't wait:
"Just met a man you know—a Clarence Ward.
I was looking out the window when he knocked.
I was waiting on the flowers for the table,
For you to cross the field. It startled me."
"Strange hour for a visit. What brought him by?"
"He wants our vote for road agent this time."
"Well, it is the only job worth having here."
"Don't start. You like it here. Let me go on.
I didn’t want to leave the window for the door
And must have had a frown when he began,
Because he took a step back off the porch,
And put his thumbs in his overalls, like this."
She did a perfect imitation of
The man whose farm is out on Fremont Road.
"He ended up too far away to part
With flyers on the things he'd do for less;
Just started in: 'Hello, my name is Clarence Ward
And I'd like to be the road agent again.'
Said he 'knows the importance of a road done right.'
Truth is, I do believe he is sincere."
It was something about the way I know she turns
And keeps her head when the story isn’t over.
"And that was all?"
"I wish it was the end,
But the way he stood, and that earnest voice of his
So full of this concern for cracks and holes—
It may have been the way the light was falling
Behind him in the street, I just don’t know—
It made me laugh."
"You laughed at him out loud?"
And all I could think of was her laugh and how,
On some days, you know of all the loves,
Why this one.
She took the flowers from my hand.
"If you see Clarence, tell him I meant no harm."
1999; originally printed in The Formalist.
Reprinted by permission of the author.