Early Lesson – a poem by Janet McCann

Early Lesson

I was disappointed to find the Comfort Stations
advertised along the highway were toilets. 
Sometimes you wanted a toilet, sometimes comfort 
and for the former there was always the woods.

I tried to imagine over miles of highway 
what a real Comfort Station would be, 
who would be there, if you stopped by 
needing something, a book, a touch, a prayer,

and I wanted to be one of the Comfort 
Station employees, though I thought 
you might have to be a nun. Maybe it was just 
you had a uniform, everyone knew

to recognize it, it was on the signpost.
I went so far as to wonder where the comfort 
came from, but never what it was.
They shook it out of boxes, it was white
 
or maybe blue, softer than a quilt
with pockets filled with all those things you missed 
that day, and everyone's was different.
You took a little nap, afterwards the nun

folded it up again, and you felt good,
ready to leave, get back to where you were going.
And since we were human, of course, 
in the back of the room there'd be toilets.

Journals publishing Janet McCann’s work include Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’Wester, America,  The Christian Century, Christianity and Literature, New York Quarterly, Tendril, and others. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A & M University from 1969-2016, is now Professor Emerita. Most recent poetry collection: The Crone at the Casino (Lamar University Press,  2014). 

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