Richard Kenney (b. 1948) is an American poet and professor of English. His work has been praised for his deft use of language and formal poetic forms. Today, I read an innocent morning poem:
Cold snap. Five o’clock.
Outside, a heavy frost—dark
footprints in the brittle
grass; a cat’s. Quick coffee,
jacket, watch-cap, keys.
Stars blaze across the black
gap between horizons;
pickup somehow strikes
its own dim spark—an arc—
starts. Inside, familiar
metal cab, an icebox
full of lightless air,
limns green with dash-light. Vinyl
seat cracks, cold and brittle;
horn ring gleams, and chrome
cuts hard across the wrist
where the sleeve falls off the glove,
as moon-track curves its cool tiara
somewhere underneath your sleep
this very moment, love—
I hope that coffee is strong enough. And served in a porcelain cup, no sugar. How can you wake up at 5am? (The word aubade, seranade but for mornings, is strangely missing from my dictionary). The early morning commute in a pick-up, I imagine it from Hollywood movies, beautiful shots with long dramatic shadows.
The familiar inside of a car full of lightless air that ‘limns’ (traces the shape of) green with dash-light. Condense, adequate depiction here. I can see you sitting there, in that cold car, pressing your warm buttocks in the vinyl seats, hunching over the wheel, your arms cold at the wrist that is not covered by sleeve or glove.
And what happens next? What is the moon-track’s tiara? Does the dim and friendly moonlight wake him up, remind him of his duties to go to work, and how he does it out of love? Or is there something more going on?