Tonight, the steps that lead from the porch to the gravel road groan one at a time.

One at a time, these eleven cabin steps make such mournful sounds.

The bottom step sings the saddest—then quiet footsteps on a gravel path.

Tonight, the river runs slow (and black), and a rowboat sighs against the shore.

The oars creak and moan in the rusted oarlocks.

Tonight, a car (say a Toyota) sits cool-engined on the sloped shoulder of River Road.

The car door yawns open (a forever pause) before the metallic yelp as it slams shut.

This world is now quieter (far emptier).

Tonight, cicadas, crickets, and bullfrogs fill whatever silence would exist without them.

Their intermittent music (bass notes and soprano notes) fill this nighttime leaving song.

Tonight in the heavens, the Big Dipper—without the hint of sound—tips over the cabin.

It ladles out a million stars (constellations exposing all the myths of love).

Tonight, the car (say a 1988 Corolla) turns over—sputtering, (finally) catching.

This November, the car will throw a rod and be pushed against a farmer’s stone row.

But that wouldn’t happen until later, after everything has been broken and finished.

Tonight (closer than the heavens), a mother calls her child to bed through the deciduous woods.

Danielle pleads—Another ten minutes (the innocence of youth).

Tonight, the car (say with rusted quarter panels) grinds into first.

The tires crunch a slow hum on back road gravel as the car pulls away from the cabin.

Tonight (farther than the mother but closer than the heavens), a dog barks at the passing car.

A low and woeful bark.

Tonight, like all the other nights (as the car shifts into second), another dog replies.

Quieter—much less sure.

The second dog hushes, cocks his head at now empty River Road.

Tonight, the car’s taillights (and the car’s clicking and knocking, the very car itself) disappear.

You’ve just rounded the curve.

And, tonight (at this very moment), I shut the cabin door, hearing the click of its latch.

Inside, it is quieter than ever before—the hum of the fridge, the groan floorboards.

Later tonight, I will toss and turn in the big bed, searching for the ghost of your body.


Sean Prentiss is a professor at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He spends his summers at his Colorado cabin. 


 Illustration by Marc Snyder