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Meditation at the Metering Lights on the Bay Bridge

March 21, 2012

by Susan Gubernat

after Robert Hass, “Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new hesitation is about traffic.
In this it resembles the old hesitation.
The sense, for example, that each green light flickering
then fading out is a sign of universal progress. That the idiot
driver ahead of me switching lanes and cutting off others
is getting any farther than the rest of the pack idling
loudly as their engines race to keep pace with inertia.
Or the other idea that bearing a FastTrack pass
will somehow negate the infinity of this fractal coastline
and bear one home safely ahead of the SUVs.
We were talking about their gluttony for gas
the other night, my friend and I, and we agreed
we would never own one. At least, not in Berkeley,
where the Prius predominates. After a while I realized
that our cars were ourselves, as they’ve said all along:
Cougar, Mustang, Impala, male, female, you and I. There
was a time I thought a Thunderbird would impress
the ladies until I realized I had usurped a Native American
icon for my own purposes. I took a vow of celibacy
that night but rose in the morning to the realization
that it had nothing to do with car makes or models,
their metaphorical nuances. It was really about
the girl I wanted to make violent love to in the backseat
of my old Rambler. Maybe it was the same for her
but she was vacationing with relatives in Cedar Rapids.
Distance, we say, is full of endless longing. There are
moments when longing and distance become
one in the same. Moments as on a bridge in rush hour
backed up to the maze with the metering lights on
and all you can think is why the hell didn’t I enroll
in FastTrack, FastTrack, FastTrack.

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Susan Gubernat’s first book of poems, Flesh, won the Marianne Moore Prize and was published by Helicon Nine Press. Her poems have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Cortland Review, Michigan Quarterly and Pleiades, among others. Her second book manuscript, Shaggy Parasol, has been a runner-up or finalist in such contests as the National Poetry Series, the Dorset Prize, the FIELD prize, the New Issues Green Rose Prize, and the Philip Levine Prize. She has held artist residencies at Yaddo, MacDowell, Virginia Center for the Arts, and the Millay Colony. Gubernat is an opera librettist (Korczak’s Orphans; composer Adam Silverman) and an Associate Professor at California State University, East Bay, where she and her students have launched a new national literary magazine, Arroyo Literary Review, focusing on, but not limited to, writers of the Bay Area.

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