The Temperature on Mercury

During the course of a day here on Mercury
temperature fluctuates between terrible extremes
from nights of -320°F—where even out of the wind
every night is the coldest night of the year to days
of 930°F—where even in the shade it’s hot
and here on a planet totally devoid of even trace amounts
of Fresca—930° can sometimes seem like 940°

But keep in mind those twenty minutes in the morning
and again those twenty minutes of late afternoon when
between these terrible extremes of temperature
it’s really not so bad out—consider that twice a day
here on Mercury there’s opportunity for a short stroll
or maybe a coffee—a hot beverage enjoyed in the glow
    of a rising sun
perhaps a cold beverage quietly sipped
between the lengthening shadows—just you and I

We’ve always had these handful of minutes
    here on Mercury
tucked between pan-seared day and freezer-burned night
these windows of opportunity offered us—you and I
    here on Mercury
always entrusting within these twenty or so minutes
twice a day—everything

Poetry in the Cars

Hunched and squirming in their cars
everybody is muttering poetry to themselves

That’s what I tell my daughter after sitting in traffic
for 45 minutes outside Braintree or Quincy or somewhere

But Dad—she says from her plaid Mary Oliver booster seat
all their poetry seems really angry—and so I explain

that sometimes poetry is angry poetry—sometimes
poetry scowls and turns its back on rainbows

sometimes poetry just wants to slap the horn—sometimes
poetry crawls like a dirge

The guy with the Vermont plates trying to cut me off
is spewing Bukowski

Some Xfinity van is Ginsberging the best minds
of his generation right on my ass

A middle finger extended from my driver side window
has Emily Dickinson all over it

The lady driving the Forester in front of us—
thinning gray hair barely visible above her seat

I can tell from the breath on her windshield
she’s mumbling a haiku—

    still against my gaze
    the empty lane before me
    fills with swerving cars

Oh my God—are you going to Go or What—lady?
and my daughter asks—What poem are you reciting, Dad?

It’s Whitman
“Are You Going To Go Or What, Lady” by Walt Whitman

What’s it about? she asks when I think I’m off the hook
And so I tell her—I tell her it’s about movement

it’s about snaking the s-curves the way we snaked
out of Eden on that first morning commute

it’s about the momentum that propels us forward
powered by gasoline and the fear of being left behind

it’s about manifest destiny outside Braintree or Quincy
or somewhere at about 15 mph

it’s about how when that strand of brake lights cuts
the haze—when the dawn strikes cold hard chrome

when the shimmer and bend of a guardrail is the only
moral compass left to you, child—that’s poetry

that’s what it’s about