The Common Good
November-December 2000

The Car in the Snow

by Rod Jellema | November-December 2000

Poetry is like prayer in that it is most effective in
solitude and in the times of
solitude as, for
example, in the earliest morning. —Wallace Stevens

Poetry is like prayer in that it is most effective in
solitude and in the times of solitude as, for
example, in the earliest morning. —Wallace Stevens

She transmutes the scene of this late afternoon
into how it will look in the predawn dark,
when the only visible car will hum
so softly from so far away,
it will be more imagined than heard.

The snow is falling heavy enough
so she won't know the strain of the car's
yellow lights working through deep drifts.
She'll see the lit-up tops of fresh-plowed banks
at the corners, and then the easy sweep of light
across white fields to the north
out past the sleeping town.

She makes it about four a.m., when no one's up.
That's only a stranger passing through,
she will say to herself, and can pray it's not
please Lord this time not one of them,
not someone from the village sick or in trouble.
All she knows of the world at four a.m.
is what she feels by praying towards it.

She has produced this light-show,
projected it onto her fading upstairs window,
a few times before—always and only
when her own reflection is a film overlay
that wavers darkly in the glass
while heaven's snow gathers behind it,
covering edges, rounding out the town.

She will bring from her backlit kitchen
her supper and tea on the blue Dalton china.
The prayer is finished. She will drowse
at the window as the blurred streets go faint
until, from behind car headlights, she makes out
the sudden slice of a road that opens wide
into the deep pine forests north, into at last
the dreaming dark that has been drawing her
out beyond the town, out where she's never been.

ROD JELLEMA is the author of three books of poetry, including The Eighth Day: New and Selected Poems (Dryad Press), and former director of creative writing at the University of Maryland.

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