Driving the Lincoln Tunnel


1.

As the final cars weave from the left lane into the right

barreling towards Weehawken where Burr and Hamilton

dueled and old Saint Hoboken where Sinatra was born

I stay steady—steady—and gently curve along until the trees

give way and the skyscrapers of Manhattan grow to my left

reflecting off of the Hudson and lighting the restaurants

along the river banks until I’m facing the cliffs with their

condominiums and apartments and billboards proclaiming

that I could hear you if I so choose, and indeed I have.


2.

The portals sit like open eyes, watching patiently as stone

will often do, as patiently as our uniformed finest do while

gazing through the windows of every other car, at every other

driver, and I watch them too, starting in Rutherford at times,

trying to perceive their fear or their purpose or what they

might be hiding and how much and where and when the time

might be right, but that must be washed out of the head

otherwise the muscles fail to respond and common sense

strikes the chest like a blast of heat, forcing the breath out.


3.

For eight thousand and six feet I hold my breath while

seventy five thousand tons of dark water are supported

thirteen feet above my head and the fact that this was the

first major tunnel to be constructed without a fatality does

little to relieve the strain, the worst part being the blue line

drawn down the side of the wall showing where New Jersey

ends and New York begins, but then I think of the hydraulic

engineer being pushed by his feet through a small hole to shake

hands with the crew who were digging from the other side.


4.

The ears of the workmen would pop as each section was

pressurized until it matched the adjoining lock, then they

could proceed and everything was repeated until they reached

the forward end where they had to work quickly before the

pressure caused shortness of breath and dizziness, the brain

starting to make the laws of physics and God bend to its own

whims, but these men worked one hour days, half in the morning

and half in the evening to make sure there were no mistakes,

because mistakes here are erased by water, and erased well.


5.

The helix is far behind me as the lights brighten and air clears

itself like an exhalation, this is what it is like when the syringe

pumps into the vein, no turning back, straight on to the heart

and the brain until we are lost to everything except the holy body,

and we fall further south, away from the spires and glass, away

from the brain and heart and directly to the soul resting gently

with eyes half closed and a thin blanket pulled up around the neck

until we are there and the blanket lifts and invites us in to gather

in this holiest circle of warmth and love and deep, deep thought.  

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