Lady Driver

The woman behind me is talking to no one
I can see. A juggler without apples or oranges
she gestures wildly, and at the light I can tell
she’s crying. I study her in the mirror
as if we had time in the world. Lady,
I tell her, remember Alice trying to steer
with her knitting needles? You can’t keep
juggling forever, arranging your body
in constant declarations of freedom.
We all need to fall on our own weight,
rebound and sink into one another.

But there I go again, trying for some quasi-
quixotic take on things, as if driving in moonlight
instead of rain, as if we wouldn’t be obliged
to turn back when the bass fuzzes out
in the cars of jackhammer men balling the jack
again and again. But I see you, lady, I make
your little red Honda into a capacious
ballroom, the slightly jarring deceleration
caused by other dancers bumping into us
as we talk and twirl and reshape
like clouds moving out of a storm.

Click here to read Catherine Stearns on the origin of the poem.


Image: “VicinMirror” by Mish Sukharev, licensed under CC 2.0.

Catherine Stearns:
I was waiting for a light to change, listening to yet another story about Harvey Weinstein on the radio. I could see the woman alone in the car behind me, crying and making frantic gestures. My poems don’t often have such an obvious correlation to my life, but that moment was clearly the occasion for this poem. I thought about what I wanted to say to that other “lady driver,” and at some point, in writing the poem, I remembered going to a dance recital; afterward, one of the dancers had talked about the importance of being able to “fall on your own weight.” What I really wanted to do while I was waiting for the light (that change) was to twirl out of my own little red Honda into some capacious new place where the woman and I could talk – and dance – where traffic, radios, and ravening types would cease to exist. Or maybe some poems just need to become musicals?

Catherine Stearns
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