Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses in his day job as carpenter/contractor in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His books of poetry are Son of a Poet; Foggy Dog, and the recent Random Saints. He is the author of novels for adults (Famous Potatoes, Clear Heart) and for children (Quake!, The San Puerco Trilogy) as well as the handyman memoir 99 Jobs: Blood Sweat and Houses.
The stranger in the car behind
A mighty gust of fog rips 3 bicycles
from the rope-and-bungee web atop my van
to fly past the rear window as my gut drops
in a center lane on the Golden Gate Bridge
so I stop. God help me, I stop.
Jump out. Run back
to where the stranger in the car behind
blessedly not a tailgater braked in time
now has put on his blinkers and hustled forward
as together under steel cables
while wet wind howls with diesel smoke
as cars roar by on both sides
while an oil tanker glides beneath
he says not one word in the quick desperation
helps gather 3 bent bicycles from the roadway
which I stuff on top of 3 scared children
as the stranger to whom I said not one word
not a thank you not a moment for it
runs back to his car in the mad din of about 30 seconds
while I hop into the driver’s seat
and stomp on the gas and — gone.
And the stranger whoever
never asked to be a hero
pumped adrenalin scrambled amid traffic
where no trucks or busses plowed into us
survived and drove on and — gone.
So to you right here right now reading this poem —
Yes, you —
To all you strangers in all the cars behind
let me say in advance:
Bless you for what without hesitation you will do.
Thank you so much.