Cold War Poem By Sara London

Cold War Poem By Sara London

That first winter
he drove us across
the frozen surface
of Lake Champlain—
from Charlotte, Vermont
to Essex, New York and back,
in our VW bus,
the youngest at home
with our mother,
who knew nothing
until late that night
when my father, lighting
his pipe, said casually,
“I did it,” and she,
unbelieving at first,
didn’t speak, and then
in a voice that came
darkly, like the shadow
of a closing door:
“Are you some
kind of maniac?”
Weeks later
in the Mustang,
he maneuvered off the pier
and onto the rink
of lake, past stunned
hockey players,
accelerating
to the bruised
transparency of thinner
shield, then,
slamming his brakes,
spiraled us
into a vortex
degrees beyond our
understanding,
though the sheer
blind thrill of it
we mistook
for his happiness
wrenched free.
What failures
at violence, these
test drives, the earth’s
ice sealed against
his folly,
his slow fall
not downward
but sprawling,
like fractures
in anchor ice,
or tributaries
bleeding in spring.
That February
might have been
fiction, but for the
pinging and shifting
of depths beneath us
the moment the Mustang
spun to its standstill,
a glazed world
turning through
milky oxygen,
and no sure direction
home.
The scooped
vinyl cushion
of back seat
made a dark lap
we squirmed in,
fearing and craving,
these odd outings,
high on the cloudy,
chemistry of love’s failure—
or so we later learned.
Clues, though,
were everywhere,
shavings of crystallized
disappointment
beading on our mother’s
tepid forehead
as she lined our mittens
along the radiator’s
chipped ribs
and hung
our coats.

Sara London
first published in The Hudson Review, vol. LI, no. 4, Winter 1999

Cold War Poem By Sara London

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top