Photo by Stephen Brockwell

Installment 16 presents six short vignettes: snapshots of care and risk that resist our age of dehumanization. Stephen Brockwell’s speaker offers tender, chilling, and at times humorous glimpses into why certain drivers are willing to go the extra mile for their human cargo.


A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Border Crossings


Phil, we remarked on your broad lapels.
You were thumb-wheeling home to your brother’s funeral
in a vintage three-piece you bought on the Main,
black wool with satin piping better suited to a gala.
It had seen more years than you, more than your brother.
And so, we drove you to Niagara Falls
and there you crossed over.


What were you thinking, Jasmine Dumont? Carrying
two babies—one in your arms—fleeing the fists
of your first beau Jean-Paul. Infant and backpack.
Goth makeup forcefully applied. It didn’t run in the rain.
Your accidental son a shield against creeps.
We drove you to Cornwall Island
and there you crossed over.


Kelly and Steve, bounced out the side door
at The Maples, it wasn’t my habit to shepherd drunks
but your adolescent faces recalled that psycho
in the back seat of a Charger who, at a hundred clicks,
pushed my face toward the pavement after opening the door.
And so, I drove you to Coteau du Lac.
From there you crossed over.


Do you recall the names of that pair of musicians
who played Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, and Dar Williams
until they fell asleep with one hour left in the ride
to Napanee? They had a Buffalo gig. It seemed
aspirational. Maybe they never gave their names.
A parent drove them to Alexandria Bay
where they crossed over.


Samir, we pleaded with you not to go, but you
were a Pierrefonds jock with a cross on your neck
and a duffle bag of gear on your pallet-wide shoulders.
No missed Greyhound could hold your superb hands back
from that football camp in Syracuse.
And so, we drove you to Prescott.
We heard you didn’t cross.


Who was the driver, Seidu Mohammed, that called
911 after you walked seven hours through waist-deep snow,
after hiring a $400 cab in North Dakota,
hoping to share an intimate life under the rainbow flag,
not behind bars. You lost your fingers to the frost.
You walked to Manitoba
and you crossed.


Stephen Brockwell grew up in Montreal. His sixth book of poems, All of Us Reticent, Here, Together (Mansfield Press, 2016) won the Archibald Lampman Award. He owns a small IT company and travels too frequently to Las Vegas.