Witness To The End Of Vacation

 Witness To The End Of Vacation
 “This traffic is so bad
 you could die in it,” I said
 from my Civic. And then, 
 prophetically, someone did.
 I blamed the governments - 
 assigning a single customs officer to man
 all eight border control booths on July 4th –  
 The line to leave Canada constipated
 for miles. A well-intentioned tourist
 balled a Niagara Falls souvenir
 sweatshirt under the man’s neck
 as they untangled the man
 from his seatbelt and unfolded
 his unconscious body
 onto the center lane.  Other drivers
 who weren’t driving anyway
 stepped out of their cars to flag
 the wailing ambulance like a parade float, 
 but the man’s heart
 gave up on waiting.  
 There is no protocol
 for what to do when a man dies of heart attack 
 in the center lane of border patrol traffic, 
 though we in a five car radius turned off
 our radios and engines; It seemed the dead
 should not be subjected to Justin Bieber
 nor bathe in our exhaust.  Miles behind us,
 cars were honking, hungry to get to America.

© 2020 Jewish Young Professional


I cheated a bit. It’s a revision of an old poem, but it worked well enough for the dVerse Poetics 428 – Poetry as Witness and Go Dog Go Cafe 3 Favorite “W” Words prompts, so I couldn’t resist.


  1. Wonderful poem, evocative of that awful moment. I liked how you managed the timing and the tension in the piece – the man moves from unconscious to dead, ‘unfolded’ from the accident to the centre line. And that tender moment when his head rests on the Niagara Falls t-shirt. Also the opening out in the last line – the crowds beyond the tragedy impatient…still dreaming their dreams. Terrific piece. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Something so surreal about this, beginning with the “prophetic” note and ending with a body stretched out “in the center lane of border patrol traffic”. But then the closing, “hungry to get to America” crashes in, and we’re disconcerted again. Well done, JYP.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (our radios and engines; It seemed the dead
    should not be subjected to Justin Bieber
    nor bathe in our exhaust. Miles behind us,
    cars were honking, hungry to get to America.)
    I appreciate the stance taken in that brief moment, a personal decision to practice self-restraint. Jishiku (自粛) is a type of mourning that’s common in Japan. It’s often translated “self restraint”. It means that when you’re in mourning you shouldn’t celebrate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating. We have a similar concept in Judaism. In Judaism, when someone is in mourning, they are supposed to follow certain restrictions, for example, not listening to live music (which often means not going to parties or weddings or events that are likely to have live music) because it would be too celebratory.


      • I think with Japan it is a national and personal response in a time of crisis, and not so much a ritual, just an inner stance to get through a period of crisis. Even election campaigns are seriously toned down in a time of a crisis.

        Liked by 1 person

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