Ethnological Connections

By Caroline Plasket

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We drive this turnpike across the length
of Pennsylvania for the hundredth time, as I
look through the smudged
windshield where my footprints are seen
when the light allows.

The highway is a barrier,
the laundry behind it waves in the sun—
a dimple on the day’s face. 

Things I can’t see: evaporation—the exit—
the floating up; the invisible water christens
itself into cloud, chanting:
I am one of you now
I am one of the heavy places that hold it all together
until I can’t…

There is the welcoming, dry earth; the ill-timed
clothes, pinned up; a summation
of someone’s life, up against the interstate.

We are viewers perched in front of the exhibition,

there are people standing against
large, red trucks—making O’s with their mouths
for cigarettes, before they blink past;

And then more laundry, hard with that sun-tiredness,
but dotted with the dark spots of the moment above.

In New Zealand, where I lived as a child,
they used to call this “spitting,” as if to personify
the clouds. As if to say, “this isn’t reckless.”

– Caroline Plasket

Author’s Note“Ethnological Connections” explores the helplessness humans face in our experience of being, and the ways in which we try to manipulate life. It uses the idea of people in cars, studying the lives they pass, as though they are scientists holding it all under a lens. The end is a nod to our tendency to personify our surroundings, giving them human-like thoughts and qualities in an attempt to feel as though our own autonomy means something