Driving to Ottawa

By Tracy K. Smith

More and more now we slip
Into this tone of voice, the hush
Of people talking about someone
Who has just died, only
No one has died. We might be
Sisters, or old friends, or passengers
On the road to the airport. Once
I sat talking this way to a man
I’d only just met, while dawn
Floated up and turned all the white
Hills flush. The momentary kind
Of love two strangers share,
Pushing out those long sighs
And then rushing to fill the lungs
Again with weightless clear air.
Looking into the distance
Blotted out by hills that give way
Sometimes suddenly to silos
Or the teetering barns of a past
That’s gone, but won’t lie down
And let us grieve it.
                                The days
Are bright but cold. Our shadow
Spreads like ash across each road.
How much more will we bury
In the earth? How much
In this dark where the earth floats?


Tracy K. Smith, “Driving to Ottawa” from Wade in the Water. Copyright © 2018 by Tracy K. Smith.Used with the permission of The Permissions Company LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org. All rights reserved.