Kate Stanner-Maxwell

yells the flashing neon font above my head, all caps

and all inevitable, goading me to skull slam into head-

rest, gasp a final breath of relatively fresh air before

the creep and clog of carbon monoxide fingers at the

flesh of my mouth, siphoning ghoulish kiss deep

into lungs with the thick grey fog of first world loss.

Tagged an incident as if nothing ever happens in the

tunnel. Should we be happy for the tunnel? That this

vacuum of variety that only serves to get us from here to

there is finally experiencing an event? Cocooned in

concrete walls, blur of boring asphalt, those flash red

rectangles, before and behind, wail stop, stop, and stop

again. But I can’t even see the incident: crane neck,

press cheek to window, and see nothing but blocks of

farting metal impregnated with blank faces. A crack,

a stain – not seen at speed, draws my eye into its dark

and seeping rivulets of subterranean gloom, dripping

down suspended day into my middle earth fears of what

we’re lodged below. Barely rolling rubber propels me,

inch by inch and I’m still looking for the incident. A

death? A crash? A fit of road rage? Or was it just a burst

of balloons and honking horns to mark the millionth toll

customer crossing the invisible beeping line? Did they

thrust cake into the grasping hands of commuters, quick

enough to wind windows down? Did balloons deflate and

hiss into drains, wrap around some feckless fish far out to

sea? Eventual exit into daylight sets me blinking as I flow

into traffic’s smoother pace and the incident’s forgotten.

About the Author

Kate Maxwell is a teacher and writer from Sydney. She’s been published and awarded in many Australian and International literary magazines. Her first poetry anthology, Never Good at Maths (IP Press) was published in 2021, and her second anthology will be forthcoming in 2023. Her interests include film, wine, and sleeping.