Lesley Wheeler’s: “Dead Poet in the Passenger Seat”

Dickinson flickers beside me,
a sepia projection
in too few frames per second—
an analog broadcast, broken

as trees break light. Discrete, despite
the slant-rhyme of us. She’s dazed
by the persistence of her signal,
but grows sharp as she plays

with the radio knobs. She asks how I dream
and conjure while I drive
this carriage at such shuddering speed.
Observes that I’m not alive

to the blurred show at the roadside—plunge
of hawk for carrion,
steams staggering under seed. She warns,
slow down. I carry on

about parallel routes, the map
I might have used. Her image
goes snowy, faintly doubled. I ask
if she regrets her fine-stitched

silences. Thinking of words, she slants
forward, as if against wind,
and wrings her hands. She says, oh, yes
I do. Too many friends

were ghosts, or I a ghost of them.
But glancing at her eyes
just for one attentive moment,
I glimpse the no, joyous,

the banked-up fire of her bound-up hair.
Her dash protracts—each inky line
sizzles like a telephone wire.
Connected the old way. Alone.


(Post by permission of the author)