"Not a Poem About Driving at Night"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Aug. 26 2003 11:55 AM

Not a Poem About Driving at Night

Listen to Erika Meitner reading this poem. Light production is associated with the survival of a species, but the insect crawling across my dash seems uneventful— looks so much like a roach that without hesitation, I kill it.

I don't realize what I've done until my scrap of parking ticket
begins to glow phosphorescent green, specks trailing like radar,
like bridge lights or necklace beads over the odometer.

When I die the Buddha will ask questions. Because of this error
I will be reincarnated smaller. Murderous girl, what is the speed of light?

What if I were winged and luminous? Could I shatter like a constellation
across the night sky? Could my body light a path through darkness?

All summer fireflies filled the field behind our house with morse code,
with patterns. Blinking to mate, you said. Male flashing spontaneously in flight.
Love is scientific—we glow, shudder, rest once they come to us.

I think of you steadily farther away, not thinking of me, thinking of me,
getting up from the couch and shutting the lights,
feeling your way along the familiar wall to bed.

Remember my head in the crevice of your armpit, my ear suctioned to your chest? Something feeds the fire, then it goes out. They blink, I blink; red tips to their wings, and no song.

Erika Meitner's second book, Ideal Cities, was selected as a 2009 National Poetry Series winner and is forthcoming. She teaches at Virginia Tech.

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