Night Out

Jan 18, 2019

Today’s poem is “Night Out” by Paul Nelson. He lives and writes in Sequim, WA, though he calls himself a “Downeaster at heart,” having called home an old saltwater farm in Machiasport for nearly 40 years. His ninth book of poetry, Learning to Miss, was published in 2018, as was his first book of fiction, Refrigerator Church, a book of stories spanning 60 years of local experience in Maine.

He writes, “I remember a story on the radio in our kitchen in Machiasport, fixed all day to NPR, starting with Robert J. Lurtsema’s Morning Pro Musica. It was about a guy on a mountain road whose stalled car was attacked by a bull moose in rut. My poem became, as images popped up, a dreamlike experience about humor and humility, being a creature of nature, and being saved, as in salvation, by a sporty moose. Why not? I remain sort of 'upside down.'”

Night Out 
by Paul Nelson 

Blank by the fire.
Coals dropped in platelets.  My hands glowed,
years fused.  So I got up and drove out the forest road
as if I were a star beneath the jittery stars,
swarming the mountainous sofas. 

Thirty below, 2 A.M., I missed the turn beyond the bridge,
slid once around, hallucinated into a drift.
The hood popped. The engine-well filled with snow.
I had been drinking but sat there 
thinking how the beauty of that night would freeze in my eyes.
It was then the moose came from the trees, wading,
waving its great, palmated rack, looming above the car.
It looked in, lowered its neck, hooked the rocker panel
and with something of a moan flipped me over, out of the snow,
into the middle of the road, snorted and walked off upside down.
I sat on my neck.  I couldn’t see the sky,
was wondering, sorry when the headlights came,
the Atlantic Seafood truck for Portland, turning me yellow, 
a yolk in a cracked egg, almost running me over.
He jimmied the door. I spilled out talking.
He wouldn’t believe me any more than you,
how I’d been saved, that my life had been in danger.
The tracks were gone in powder.  All-State
looked at the buckled roof but would not call it
an act of God or Man, wouldn’t swallow Moose.
But that big, sad face, rubber-lipped above me,
moons in my dreams. 

Poem copyright © 1982 Paul Nelson. Reprinted from Days Off, University of Virginia Press, 1982, by permission of Paul Nelson.