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for the 21st century


Gladys Henderson


A car from far away makes a hushed noise on the blacktop, hums

its way towards the house then passes. All remnants of its presence

disappear— the rattle of its loose muffler, radio blaring bad news,

the whine of its transmission as it mounts the heavy grade, rides

towards the summit.  It climbs the mountain road, cautiously entering

the fog that clings this morning. Switchbacks move the car forward

then back, each time the elevation increasing.  It travels the body

of the mountain, concealing miles traveled at each turn, the journey

always the small length of road ahead.  At the summit, the car breaks

through shrouds of gray.  Sunlight transfigures pine stands, birch woods;

stone wavers in a sea of light.  Mica is on fire.  In the hollows of empty

places flowers bloom, bird songs untie the silence.  Radiance with its perfume

is everywhere. No one would question her reasons for stopping. Creation

ignites the air; wind trembles the trees as if they too had seen some vision.

Might have been wiser for her not to have stopped, wiser for her to shelter

her eyes from such splendor.  She must return home on that same road, visions

fresh in her mind, will spend a lifetime mining words to relive the moment.  From

her deepest sleep she will be awakened with longings— they will steal her away.


Gladys Henderson’s poems are widely published.  She was named Walt Whitman Birthplace Poet of the Year in 2010, and was chosen as the Poet Laureate of Suffolk County 2017-2019.  Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Eclipse of Heaven in 2009.