Published on Academy of American Poets (

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


Rio Cortez

Rio Cortez is the author of I Have Learned to Define a Field as a Space Between Mountains (Jai Alai Books, 2015) and The ABCs of Black History (Workman, 2020).

Date Published: 2020-09-08

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