Stand Off

by Christine Adams Beckett

I figured it wouldn’t last,
The persistence of one stubborn
Oak leaf clung to the grill
Of my windshield by its stem,
The petiole, as Carolyn Dwinnells
Called it in my eighth grade
Science class, containing tiny tubes
That once gave it remarkable strength,
Allowing its broad pinnated leaf
To hold fast to its towering foundation,
Even in gale force winds.

Not yet brittle to the touch,
Reminiscent of an ultimate
Authority two promotions ago
Via dress blues, starched broad
Shouldered epaulettes,
One anthropomorphic leaf
Spreads its arms and
Knocks on the glass
With its tiny pointed fists,
Stirring my inner critic awake
As if it were a passenger
Bumped to attention under
His safety belt. It
vibrates over Sotirios Johnson
And floods the cabin
Of my sensible car with
A cacophony of reminders.

Windshield wipers are useless
To silence him, as are powerful streams
Of windshield wiper fluid,
Rather brisk lane changes
Or cursing commands hurled
Through the glass.
The volume knob of frequency
Modulation turned clockwise
Intensifies the duet and
Amplifies an uninvited

Traffic slows to a stop as
Four lanes crumpled into
Two, the manic percussion
Stopped to a ringing of
My accustomed ears. The
Driver behind me yelled
As I plucked the leaf
From the grill, insurance
For my O’Henry Johnsy,
Letting it fall on the passenger seat
In my clown car of one.

Snapped cleanly at
The accession zone, it
Stiffly absorbed the last
Of the day’s sun that
It once reflected. I
absentmindedly traced my
Finger along its midrib, inadvertently
Broke it, sensing now that
It belonged to me: via
Mrs. Dwinnells’s fundamental
States of matter, or
Something entirely more
Fashioned, Genetic, one
Half of an
Imperfect whole.