Driving to Keene on Sunday

William Doreski

Snow-banks hedge the road. Driving
to Keene on Sunday, I note deer
tracks stumbling into the woods
where the herds have crossed in search
of fodder. Not much traffic at night
or else the slaughter of these herds
would leave the asphalt blood-smeared
and slick with ice. Today I’ll judge
recitations by high-school students
of poems by Tennyson, Byron,
Ginsberg, Olds, Clifton, and Shelley.
No bloodshed, only a tear or two
when we announce the winners.
A plastic cup of punch, a cookie
or sprig of broccoli to honor
the occasion. Then I’ll drive home
to catch the last quarter of a game
between two professional teams,
a game that means nothing to me.
The highway widens at the Keene
city limits. A burned house sulks
behind plywood windows. The smell
of charred interior still wafts
across the road, three months after
the fire. I drive more slowly now,
my aged reflexes processing
the distance more deliberately
than they did a decade ago.
The snowbanks shoulder up and crowd
the driving lanes. The flaccid light
offers nothing. Those bright students
brave onstage with famous poems
on their lips will astonish me,
as they do every year: their faces
receding like stars still reeling
from self-creation, exuberance
mortals once mistook for gods.

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