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April 1, 2012 vol 8 no 1

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Steven Carter

Long Night's Journey into Day

Everywhere in the country I'm traveling through, ambiguities of starlight: trees blending into shadows blending into trees: the moon minding its own business behind clouds illumined in pinks and yellows from the lights of a distant town.

Oddly, irrationally, I feel a tug and pull of nostalgia for this town, even though I've never been there. And I think of Dante – beard pointed south, in the other direction from Tuscany – bathed in the starlight of another country; at least he has his memories of Florence, the Arno and a view of the beautiful upland village of Fiesole, to keep him warm.

. . . Or maybe the nostalgia is more akin to a prodigal son's love for the lights of home.

As I drive, my headlights chasing trees and shadows, I know what's coming; and sure enough, stepping over a fallen branch and carrying a small suitcase, there she is. I slow down, looking at her blonde hair in the lights for just a moment, then pull up. Rolling down the passenger window, I say gently,

"Won't you get in?"

"Forgive me," she brushes a strand of hair from her cheek, "but I don't need your company." Then she turns off into a field of shadows, waving once without looking back as she disappears. And I drive on in a rising dark wind: moon, clouds, and town never getting closer.

shock to the heart –
a cold shower