On the Road to Oakridge
Mid-morning and I’m late to a meeting
at the Town Hall, and I’m only outside of Eugene.
But the shy light distracts, no one in front or behind,
a good country tune on the AM station. Then,
as if choreographed, elk enter from each side
of the highway, seven of them—and I’m following,
as if without hands on the wheel, and they’re
pulling me, as if they knew I needed this ride—
the chance to breathe deep, in control of nothing.
And we travel like that for miles, smooth and steady,
and we travel like that until Oakridge approaches
around the final bend in the road—until the elk part,
as gracefully as they’d come—like the Red Sea,
only kind and silent.
Marilyn Johnston is an Oregon writer and filmmaker. She received a fellowship from Oregon Literary Arts, a Robert Penn Warren prize, and selection as a Fishtrap Fellow for her poetry. She is the author of a chapbook, Red Dust Rising, and a recent full collection, Before Igniting (2020, Rippling Brook Press). Her work has appeared widely, in such publications as Natural Bridge, Poetica Magazine, and Rough Places Plain: Poems of the Mountains. She teaches creative writing as part of the Artists-in-the-Schools program.