Jane in the Passenger Seat
The floorboards are wet. The heater is gusting. The sky
is low; the fields blank. You’ll have to
ask Dad that, Jane answers. The backseat does not
ask Dad that. It is February in New England.
The destination is Trader Joe’s.Jane knows that centuries ago women crossed fields
to deliver their neighbors’ children. They wore snowshoes,
brought honey, rum, and butter. The snow
was stirred like their skirts. The snow
was crusted like sleep. The snowwas deep. (The heat is on, Jane tells the backseat.)
As the sky was low, the night was sudden.
The sun, like desire, had occurred.
Jane thinks of wool cloaks congregating on pegs
while the women attended travail. It was hard,it was very hard & dangerous. The mother
was under very Dangerous Circumstances,
as God intended. Big house little house back house barn,
Jane chants to no one. She will forget
the pickles. She will remember butterand honey. She will see her husband
standing by a cardboard cupid,
hands in the pockets of his dirty coat,
staring at nothing. Soon, she tells the backseat,
which is nearly true.After a night, or several, a woman emerged
with news. My wife was Delivered,
a man recorded. His life—his work—
resumed. The fields needed paths.
The animals needed hay. The snow, the wind, the cold—nothing abated. A passenger’s job is to help.
Sometimes a passenger can’t help
but ask the driver what’s wrong.
Copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Habel
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Founded in 1892 by the teacher and critic William Peterfield Trent, the Sewanee Review is the longest-running literary quarterly in America. The SR has published many of the twentieth century’s great writers, including T. S. Eliot, William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Wallace Stevens, Saul Bellow, Katherine Anne Porter, Marianne Moore, Seamus Heaney, Hannah Arendt, and Ezra Pound. The Review has a long tradition of cultivating emerging talent, from excerpts of Cormac McCarthy and Flannery O’Connor’s first novels to the early poetry of Robert Penn Warren, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and Christian Wiman. “Whatever the new literature turns out to be,” wrote editor Allen Tate in 1944, “ it will be the privilege of the Sewanee Review to print its share of it, to comment on it, and to try to understand it.” The mission remains unchanged.