"Strange State, Wrong Highway, Cold Night"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 1 2003 10:39 AM

Strange State, Wrong Highway, Cold Night

Listen to J. Allyn Rosser reading this poem.

Centuries of suffering have led to this,
a warm seat near the fire,
chilled hands curled snugly around
a mug of something hot and good,
no imminent threats, no one squinting
over club or mace or dagger.
The mug is hot enough almost to hurt
the flesh, so one has constantly
but subtly to shift the grip,
letting some surfaces escape
while others brave the heat, so now
the whole body attends, thrills
to the sensation of its two palms,
like sinking into a Japanese bath,
heat seeping through each limb and
agreeably down the spine, along
the phantom tail, all trails meeting
at the center of one's being.
Centuries of deprivation have led
to this merging of animus and animal
who take their ease together
in a burst of health and good will,
so even the voice of Neil Diamond,
insufferable Neil, is suddenly beloved,
or at least forgiven; he gets piped
right into the bath along with
several quaintly dusty artificial roses.
The faint, sharp odor of a cleanser too
is taken in, all of it welcomed
into the bath, the inner streaming.
God knows what horrors my forebears
had to endure so I could choke the engine
and come crunching in imported boots
into Kathy's Country Inn, to settle
near a stranger's fire, to drink a brew
tropical and strong, prepared in exchange
for this green wisp I pull from my pocket,
the convenient bimillennial culmination
of beads and pelts and sacks of grain or gold.
Nothing wanted, no moment lamented:
just being here, as near nirvana as it gets.
One would gladly have given up all
for this moment if it hadn't come unbidden.
But it has, and it will retire soon,
perhaps never to return with such
completeness, or if so then rarely.

But why? Why not this blessed feeling every damn day? After all, the drink needed only be good. And hot. And one had been merely chilled, and a little tired, and lost.

J. Allyn Rosser teaches at Ohio University and is the author of Foiled Again. She teaches at Ohio University, where she edits New Ohio Review.

TODAY IN SLATE

Doublex

Crying Rape

False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B

How Will You Carry Around Your Huge New iPhone? Apple Pants!

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Television

The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Lifetime Didn’t Find the Steubenville Rape Case Dramatic Enough. So They Added a Little Self-Immolation.

No, New York Times, Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman” 

Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 1:39 PM Shonda Rhimes Is Not an “Angry Black Woman,” New York Times. Neither Are Her Characters.
Behold
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.