by Esther Whitman Johnson
         dedicated to a young couple met on
             retreat in North Carolina

Be careful, my love, on your long drive home,
don’t speed, go five miles under, please.

Put your signal on at every turn, reach for nothing
in back or on the floor—especially on the floor.

Drop anything, leave it where it falls. Stay to the right
on interstate, no matter how slow the car in front, no

matter how much you want to pass. Hang back, lay
low, be inconspicuous. Nothing’s worth a pull-over,

taking chances with a cop on the shoulder. If he pulls
you to the side, don’t ask what he’s got you for, don’t

say you’ve done nothing wrong. Keep your license
on the dash, not in the glove, tell him it’s there before

you move your hand. Keep a smile frozen on your face,
indignation locked inside,
wear the mask that grins

and lies
. Kiss the children when you arrive,
dignity shaken, but alive. Say Mommy misses

them, she’ll be back soon, but all’s fine now.
Daddy’s home.

(Poetry fragment in italics from Paul Laurence Dunbar's
"We Wear the Mask")

Esther Whitman Johnson, a former high school educator from southwest Virginia,
now travels the globe doing volunteer gigs on five continents, often writing about
her journeys. Her poetry and prose have appeared in over two dozen journals,
including Broad River Review, Main St. Rag, Lunch Ticket, Earth's Daughters,
Virginia Writers, and anthologies such as Black Lives Have Always Mattered, and
Forgotten Women.