“Off the Highway West of Birmingham” by Tobi Cogswell

Shelby once thought that Frontage Road
was the longest two-lane in the state,
now she knows it’s a stepping-off
place for truck stops and smoke breaks,
coffee breaks, pee breaks,
her ass frozen on metal seats
so shiny she can see her reflection
between her legs which is all there
is in these huts with no mirrors
and water so cold, the Arctic
would be a summer vacation; a reflection
just like she was looking at all the beers
twinkling through a glass case
at the Circle K, they taunt her while she thinks
it’s 5 o’clock somewhere and why the hell
wouldn’t a Rolling Rock between her knees
be just as satisfying as the worn out, stale java,
steaming her glasses, making her wonder
just how long it would take to drive anywhere
that the coffee didn’t peel her insides,
and what about that handsome
red-shirted, mustached, delicious-looking
man who doesn’t have a ring and doesn’t
have a friend, who’s looking at the
small bottles of milk, a roll of Tums
in one hand, a pack of Kools in the other –
smoke breaks, coffee breaks, pee breaks
and man breaks, this Frontage Road, all
the adventures just waiting to be grabbed,
north to south and back, just like
Shelby and her new-found man.


Tobi Cogswell is a two-time Pushcart nominee. Publication credits include Illya’s Honey, REAL, Red River Review, Inkspill (UK), Iodine Poetry Journal, The Smoking Poet, Slipstream, Chiron Review, Blinking Cursor (UK), Untitled Country Review, and Hawai’i Pacific Review among others, and are forthcoming in, Paper Nautilus, North Chicago Review, The Linnet’s Wings (Ireland), StepAway (UK), Ballard Street Poetry Journal, Compass Rose, Front Porch Review, Alligator Stew (UK) and Pale House – Letters to Los Angeles. Her latest chapbook is Surface Effects in Winter Wind, (Kindred Spirit Press). She is the co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.sprreview.com).

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