A Backpackful of Nothing

teenaged boys, seeking freedom

Backpack, by benson3k4

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,

words steam

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


Originally published by Rise Up Review.  Find more poetry in my collection, Tending. 

6 thoughts on “A Backpackful of Nothing

  1. Yes… There are too few fathers and too little guidance for boys today. I don’t think the liberation of women will be complete until there is a similar liberation of men including questioning their roles and substituting an independent masculinity for a pack-oriented machismo.

    Liked by 1 person

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