Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg, cluster of lights sharpening as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge darkened. Not stars but blue-black mountains rose before me, rose like sleep after hours of driving, hundreds of miles blurred behind me. My eyelids were so heavy but I could see far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing, lightning sparking from cloud to mountaintop. I drove toward it, into the pass at Ironto, the dark now deeper in the long steep grades, heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted with evergreens, with spruce, pine, and cedar. How I wished to sleep in that sweet air, which filled-- suddenly over a rise--with the small lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere they drifted, sweeping from the trees down to the highway my headlights lit. Fireflies blinked in the distance and before my eyes, just before the windshield struck them and they died. Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass their bodies clung like buds bursting the clean line of a branch in spring. How long it lasted, how many struck and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say. Beyond them, beyond their swarming bright deaths came the rain, a shower which fell like some dark blessing. Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on what an eerie glowing beauty faced me. In that smeared, streaked light diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened, alive with wonder far after the blades and rain swept clean the light of those lives passed, like stars rolling over the earth, now into other lives.
From Cardinal Points by Michael Pettit. Copyright © 1988 by Michael Pettit. Reprinted by permission of the University of Iowa Press. All rights reserved.
Michael Pettit is the author of Cardinal Points (University of Iowa Press, 1988), winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize, and American Light (University of Georgia Press, 1983). He is also the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Date Published: 1988-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/virginia-evening