Late Night in Midland

Driving down the dirt road
by the Tittabawassee with congregations
of crows bottoming away to my dust
and country music drifting from the radio
I was not concerned with moment.
Movement was enough for now
after heavy moisture of Michigan June
the cool air fluttering the trees
as I passed old men waxing their cars
in shirt sleeves like my father
forty years ago relaxing after the war
we won to wax cars under willow trees
on impossible June evenings.
The river was silt-brown and still.

At the north bend I pulled over
cut the engine and listened
to the cool metal ticking
and the crickets echo.
Fireflies did their intricate
arabesques and pliés, a horsefly
buzz-sawed once and was gone.

Down by the river I was
startled by a flourish in the thicket
of birch and willow.
Two yellow eyes stared back from
a low-slung branch. It's two-note hoot
authentic and palpable. Who? Who?
I spoke back, reassuring, and went on.
It followed, and spoke again
from a primal space I could not know.
A warning. At least I took it so
and left the trees, the river, the night
rustling in the brush.

In my safe car, the radio said:
"It's eleven forty-five, you night owls.
And that was Patsy Cline."

"Late Night In Midland" © copyright 1998 by Michael Hogan. Reprinted from Imperfect Geographies (Q-Trips, 1998).