I Dream a Highway

posted Feb 9, 2005

— after Gillian Welch

The car quivers under pinpricks of starlight in western
Pennsylvania. Bare trees on the mountaintops are backlit,
iron filings tugged by a magnet. I'd blame the moon if I could
see it, blown behind the silos with chimney smoke. Lit white
as my face, the highway I dream is empty. Snow suspended
in the headlights never touches the windshield. Darkness fills
the rear-view as the road behind dissolves, no longer needed.
Ahead, our city opens its hand, and I am calling the streets
by name, a litany: Arcadia, Hudson, Neil. Tonight nothing sleeps,
not the river or the geese that belong to the river. Not the few
seed pods that survived winter. They rattle their brittle envelopes
on a tree we could touch by removing the window screen.
Even the screen is awake all night, dicing, printing a grid onto
the landscape. But when we walk outside, everything is whole.

Maggie Smith is the author of the poetry collections Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005), winner of the 2003 Benjamin Saltman Award; and Nesting Dolls (Pudding House, 2005), winner of the 2004 Pudding House National Chapbook Competiton. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Indiana Review, Florida Review, Prairie Schooner, Swink, Crab Orchard Review, Gulf Coast, Passages North, and other journals. She has received two Academy of American Poets Prizes and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. She lives in Columbus, Ohio.