Published on Academy of American Poets (

Poem for My Son in the Car

The wipers sweep two overlapping hills
on the glass, we are quiet against the
squeaky metronome as we often are
before the concerns of the day well up.
Today: Is it dark inside my body?
The wet cedar’s dark of green-gone-black
of damp earth mending itself,
a pewter bell rung into night’s collected
sigh, choral and sleep-sunk.
Dark as the oyster’s clasp
in its small blind pocket
and the word pocket a tucked notion
set aside in-case-of.
Inside there are vestibules, clapboards
trapdoors, baskets,
there is cargo,
there is the self carrying the self
sprint, trodden—
nowhere does it not—
and mournful as a spine bowing to wood
you carry your actions; inside
is cave and concern,
everything purposeful
heartwood, clockwork, crank and tender
iron in the mountain belly,
all the hidden things breathing.
Outside of and woven into, you are
the knowledge you can’t touch
the desire you can’t locate,
unnameable questions unnameable answers,
source and tributary
and the rivers that hold you
beneath. Your darkness
lives in that potential,


Copyright © 2017 by Jennifer K. Sweeney. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 4, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The car is something of a truth portal for my son; from the steady rhythm and blurring landscapes, and with both of us pointed forward, budding philosophies, fears, and confessions arise. When he asked me this question at age five, I was moved in such a way I kept peeling back its layers—what might it mean to understand the darkness of the body. The more I turned over his question, the more darkness felt akin to tenderness.”
—Jennifer K. Sweeney


Jennifer K. Sweeney

Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of Little Spells (New Issues Press, 2015); How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009), winner of the 2009 James Laughlin Award and the 2009 Perugia Press Prize; and Salt Memory (Main Street Rag, 2006), winner of the 2006 Main Street Rag Poetry Award. She lives in California.

Date Published: 2017-01-04

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