Traffic Lights

by Roxana Cazan

At night, traffic lights in the city look like miniature Christmas trees, says my two-year-old. He
has always known happiness. To me, traffic lights are the opportunity to sit with yourself for one
heavy second. The opportunity to break inside yourself. To blink and gaze with one eye toward
the heart. In the city, traffic lights sketch the space by means of time separation. They help us
move predictably, congruently despite dark intersections. Like compasses, boots, life jackets,
love letters, lap dogs, pills, or cuts. What would happen if someone came at night and took all the
traffic lights away? The city would be chaotic. Accidents would stud the highway. So many
dying on the horizon’s sour edge. Everyone would be in danger as if clutching sharp blades
against their chest. The old would spill saucers of hot tea in their laps because their hands won’t
be able to stop shaking. They would ask Why? The young would gather in abandoned parking
lots, weaving their feet’s traces together, asking Why? You’d hear your own life’s countdown.
Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Are you ready to let go? A traffic light is the certainty of your
tomorrow. A Romanian poet once wrote, I love you lighfully, and I think what they meant to say
is exactly this.

A first-generation Romanian American poet and educator, Roxana Cazan is the author of two poetry books: The Accident of Birth (Main Street Rag, 2017) and Tethered to the Unexpected (Alien Buddha Press, 2022). Recipient of the Jane Foulkes Malone Fellowship in creative writing and the Samuel Yellen Fellowship in poetry, Roxana received her MFA from Indiana University. Her poems have been featured in Poets Reading the News, Connecticut River Review, Construction Magazine, Cold Creek Review, among many others. She co-edited Voices on the Move: An Anthology by and about Refugees (Solis Press, 2020).