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A Clear Night for Learning to Drive This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Black and late. The crickets,
mute. Yolk-yellow headlights
stumble through the darkness
like two sick eyes—


                           their beams
push shadows against the empty
parking lot. Tonight,
mom’s posture in the backseat
is soft while dad’s low-tide voice
from the passenger side
directs my sister’s hands.
But when my sister’s fallibility
swerves and accelerates—


            silhouettes stiffen, shouting—
from my position on the sidewalk
again I am lurched to the cracks.
Scratches. Dents. On this family van.


One night I ran straight into a barn.
The chickens clustered around the tires,
dazed and white, shocked into silence
at the eggshells crushed like glass.


My family in our spare moments—
a half-hour trip to the city,
the quiet satisfaction after
a nice dinner—lecture each other
on the mess of accidents, but
what I needed to learn, just once
I think, was how


          to look the rearview mirror
straight in the eye. To cradle light
after shattering its thin-shelled breath.

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