Heather McNaugher

Vanilla Sky

The theater a strobing white tabernacle, the only sign of life
for miles. We’d entered in dusk’s low-hanging halo
and were returned days later, the world woolen over
with stars. The Jetta’s doors pocked the stillness,
sucking a seal around us, your cigarette
a tiny crackling Mars roving your lips as you drove.
White car, black leather, a black road at night.
It was January 2, 2002. I remember because
it was the first time I was happy this century.
I’d stopped smoking by then. And drinking.
I was a new person
with lots to say about Penelope & Tom,
always roused by couples who could match us.
It had been six months since our last make-out
with those girls in Gowanas—remember?
The hot Israeli with the British accent—
birds, she called us; and her disagreeable Long Island girlfriend
who whispered, “Hit me,” and we got the hell out of there,
howling, thrilled to be us. Sara, I am still
in that car with you, hurtling down Vestal
after my first sober movie, marveling
at the clear simple night, my lover at the wheel,
your rangy magnificent arms in that pea coat we couldn’t afford
but bought anyway. Best money ever spent.

Heather McNaugher is the author of System of Hideouts and two poetry chapbooks, Double Life and Panic & Joy. She teaches at Chatham University, where she is poetry editor of The Fourth River.

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