On the BQE and Another Poem – Adam Breier

On the BQE

He accepted deposits of
Rolls of pennies
From little old ladies
Cashed checks
In twenties
“Please”
And droned to himself
That he did
Every day
In fact
Love his job.

And setting for home
He walked through the door
And felt
The heat
Wave
Over him.
He breathed it in and
It was
A welcome change
From the cold
Dry
Stale
Work air.
But even outside
He still felt
Like he was there,
So he dropped into his car
And made his way over
The over-a-year-already construction
Turned onto the ramp
That veered
To the path home.
To the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
To the BQE.
The highway
That wants you to believe
You’ve entered anew
With
It’s winding
And dipping
Addled by some stalled car
Jackknifed truck
Deathly collision
And when any or either or all occur
Even though the air conditioner’s on
Beads of sweat
Trickle down Izzy’s spine to that place
Where the perspiration collects
That with the time he spends
Sitting
On the BQE
Waiting
For the same moment that never comes
Too soon
When miles of
Piled people
Sigh
With their release
As each car assumes
Its rightful speed and the people
And Izzy
Unclench their jaws
Let their steering wheels go
And wonder why
They were so
Damned fucking mad
In the first place.

Izzy was there
In that place
Every day.
Except for this
When he decided
To make
A great change.
To beat that highway.

He drove under Brooklyn Heights
With Lower Manhattan
Squinting at him as
He sped with trucks into
The Canal
And off the highway quick
Onto 3rd Avenue
With the Gowanus Expressway above
Blocking all hope for the
Sun
Except for its relentless peeking
Between the buildings
And factories
And synagogues
But barely touching his eyes
As he looked out ahead
And up at the Gowanus belly
Of that which he battled
And staring up at his
Inanimate foe
Izzy became often lost
As three right turns often
Do not in Brooklyn make a left
And in journeying to defeat
The BQE
The work-a-day-lurk of his brain
Would certainly float away
And Izzy found that becoming lost
Had become
The light of each day.

When the moment came
That he had figured all the routes
He knew it would all come
To a crashing end.
His mission finally complete,
Floating onto the ramp of the
Long silvery
Staten-Island-bound bridge
He gripped the steering tight
At ten and two o’clock and
Squeezed
His knuckles turning white
Felt the urge to swallow
But his throat was so tight
And couldn’t bring himself to
Wipe away a tear
Explaining to himself
That it was the sun glare
Being there
That made him react so
For this was the great day
The day he came to know
He had taught himself the way
Home
Free of the BQE
And felt then the dreary
Weight of completion
And in that, realized that he had
With the sweet success of his mission

Lost just what he had found.

To Staten Island

Because it’s hard to get to and
Harder to leave
Because of the smell that
Seeps
Through childhood
Memory
Because learning to drive
Was Snake Hill Road and
Trips for
Cigarettes
For my drivers’ ed
Teacher
Because of the bike I rode
For hours sans fear
For Four Bridges Flea Market
2 slices and a
Coke
Because I could catch a
Tadpole on the same day
Riding the ferry
To the 1 or 9 line
Uptown
To Christopher Street Station
Because
No matter where I
Was
Or where I
Am
The semi-attached home
Lost middle-class boy
Always finds his way
Back
To
Staten Island.

Adam Breier is the founding principal of Academy of Hospitality and Tourism High School in Brooklyn, NY.  His poetry and short fiction have appeared in So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Soul Fountain, OneShulThe PPA Literary Journal, and Outsider Ink.  When not working as a principal, Adam is a doctoral student at Fordham University studying Urban School Leadership.

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