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Traffic is shown on Aurora Avenue North on Monday, Feb. 26, 2018, in Seattle. State Route 99 is an iconic roadway — a relic from Seattle’s early days when the city dreamed that free and easy travel by car would attract people to its center, and later, help them bypass congestion downtown.But what sped by was time. The road is better known today for its seedier side — prostitution, homelessness, discount stores and car dealerships.Seattle’s growth is bringing changes and tensions to the throughway some call Seattle’s “Mother Road.” We look at what it tells us about where we came from and where we’re going.

Listen to this freestyle poem about Aurora Avenue

What does Aurora mean to you? Al Jawann Johnson answered that question with a spontaneous poem:

"Aurora is to me the beast in the night. It is the beauty that I see in the streetlights. It is the wayward women walking to and fro. It is the depressed joy on the homeless as they go. It is the broad city lights and cars that drive by so fast. It is the backstreets where quiet streets and houses put their heads on the pillow at last."

KUOW's Region of Boom team is spending this spring on Washington state Route 99, a highway with a story to tell about where we came from and where growth is taking us. 

Follow the series: Along the Mother Road

You can hear Johnson's poem by playing the audio above, along with answers to that same question from Jacqueline Moulton, Sharon Holt, Bruce Hoff, Robin Curtis, David Wickingstad, Daniel Stoner, Faye Garneau, Elizabeth Dahl, Cyanna DiRaimo and Lynh Nguyen. Music by RJD2.