Landscape With User Instructions

by Jennifer Bullis

When we moved our widow
   home, the rental truck came with instructions
      in a twelve-page pamphlet of finest print:

      do not load the load unevenly. Do not
   hog the road improperly. Do not steer
or brake if a disturbance, such as

trailer sway or whipping, occurs.
   Get familiar with controls first,
      get help before you back up, get away

      from the ramp before you raise it.
   If a disturbance occurs, let off
the gas pedal; after a disturbance occurs,

check your blood and tire pressure.
   Failure to follow these instructions
      may result in death, dismemberment,

      or bereavement. Carefully
   we buckled in the widow and her weeping.
Made sure the children were properly restrained.

Do not pass on hills or curves, do not
   ride the brake pedal going downhill.
      Avoid turning too hard in gas stations

      or parking lots. Do not, did not.
   Out the window, miles passed. We watched
the lakes and the fir forests slide by.

In the cab we grieved, we planned.
   Drove defensively, tried to map
      what had gone wrong when he died,

      so as not to make the same mistake.
   Did not want to be passengers wrongly
riding in the freight compartment,

risking injury from shifting cargo,
   asphyxiation, lack of protection
      from tragedy. If the truck

      gets stuck, you will be held responsible.
   Out the window, years slid by. Beside the road,
trees lined up like dominoes.

Jennifer Bullis is the author of the chapbook Impossible Lessons (MoonPath Press) and of poems & essays appearing in Gulf CoastIndiana, and Water~Stone Review. She writes from Bellingham, Washington about long-distance foot travel, motherhood, horse-keeping, faith trouble, deforestation, repurposing myth, and women in the courtroom.