Posted by: poet kate hutchinson | July 6, 2012

Contemplating the Interstates

Driving home from Iowa across I-80 this week, I was struck once again by the wonder of our Interstate Highway System.  We youngest of the Boomer generation have shared in the birth and aging of the interstates, coming to take them for granted and to see them as both necessary (which they are) and natural (which they clearly are not).

It’s become almost impossible to imagine life without huge highways — to imagine unadulterated land as far as the eye can see or to envision any sort of wilderness at all in America.  I find this sad.  It’s most likely a contributing factor in the slow disintegration of the relationship between humans and the Earth.

Here is the draft of the first stanza of a poem I’m writing about the interstates.  I actually had to do a little research for it!


Crossing Iowa

I-80, July 4th

In 1956

President Eisenhower signed

the Federal Aid Highway Act

effectively taking a knife

to the loins of the land

like the chart drawn

on a side of beef in cook books:

chuck, rib, brisket,

t-bone, flank, sirloin tip –

I’s 70, 80 and 90

clean slices from nose to rump,

asphalt lanes snaking

nearly 50,000 miles and

scarring the hide of the Earth.


—-  From here, I’m afraid the poem will have to get a little gruesome, as I feel compelled to shift to the animals’ and trees’ point of view.  That’s where the drama lies.


  1. Hi Kate—- As always you make me think, but this time it was before I even
    started with the poem! I am struck by this line in the thought process:
    “It’s most likely a contributing factor in the slow disintegration of the
    relationship between humans and the Earth.” You have made me consider that as we humans connect more and more, we do so by first lashing out at the earth, as a teen would in trying to establishing a a separate identity
    against a parent. As age and grace of time allows we come back and value
    what we come from in the organic sense of being. Perhaps the hope for the
    future is that if we can have an Arab Spring through our progress in
    technology we can also have a Human Spring in our understanding of
    mutual respect.

    As an example of our ability to connect correctly: 10 years ago the utility
    company had to resend wire lines through the neighborhood, as in our
    backyard there is a dedicated area to native plants we worried that this
    location would be torn apart. Instead the telephone men were able to dig an
    incision in the earth and run the wires under the ground leaving no trace of
    the invasion of fiber optic. The caterpillar on the milkweed never paused
    in it’s munching on a leaf as the workmen congratulated themselves when the job was done.

    You are a force of focus for me. Thank you for the guide today as a reminder of my pact with the world. We wonder in our childhood, we push in our youth, we campaign in our adulthood, and we should envision a better world in our old age.

    Love you-

  2. Trace, you’ve written a prose poem. Your ending brought a lump to my throat!! Please start writing and publishing! You have so much insight to share. (And I’m assuming you’re using your son’s ID!)

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