Why Bottles Litter Interstate Hillsides
On a steep slope behind an ODOT fence
meant to keep deer off the road,
suburban boys gather. Each brings
microbrews found in upscale fridges
or energy drinks sloshed with vodka.
They lean away from the ground’s tilt.
Drink, brag, smoke, jeer, jostle for position.
The highway courses endlessly below them,
overpasses and underpasses heading six directions,
every vehicle steering away.
Traffic noise fills the night, fills their bodies,
amps up a signature restlessness.
In earlier eras, boys their age claimed
homesteads, climbed ship rigging,
set type, shaped glass, forged iron.
Instead they’re here on this cold night,
fading into exhaust-heavy air.
Every day in every boy’s memory,
they’ve been graded on doing
a backpackful of nothing.
Here they snap saplings, toss bottles,
sometimes hoist the drunkest kid
halfway over the fence. They’re told
you’ve got your whole life ahead of you
but wonder, unspoken, how they’ll ever
muster enough speed to merge
onto the lanes taking them there.
Laura Grace Weldon