Driving at Night

For Laquan McDonald

I think it’s quails lining the road but it's fallen Birchwood.

What look like white clouds in a grassy basin, sprinklers.

I mistake the woman walking her retriever as a pair of fawns.

Could-be animals. Unexplained weather. Maybe they see us

that way. Knowing better, the closer they get. Not quite ready to let it go.


Copyright © 2020 by Rio Cortez. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I wrote this poem after driving in Utah, late at night, seeing beautiful things I did not really see. I was thinking about imagination, dangerous imagination, and about the Claudia Rankine quote ‘Blackness in the white imagination has nothing to do with Black people.’ I was thinking about how often that imagination cuts down Black life, and how it is not an accident, it is unforgivable.”
Rio Cortez