Solstice by Jenny Keith

Dec 24, 2023 | Bubbler

Nothing but taillights for miles,

the red pain receding day by day


but still a low throb of grief.

My feet are not yet cold.


The air blues and cools, a heavy

velvet front of cloud descends.


This is the end of my waiting, I tell

myself day after day. This is the last.


Eventually, we turn, my mother said.

We go back to our bleak houses


and make do. A bitterness stiffens

our bones. Dignity, a consolation prize

from disappointment. She washes ghost dishes

at a lost sink. I am still outside.

But lo, an echo of engines murmurs

through this morning’s still-dark air —

A gleam of chrome in the moon, for a moment

a flank of that dark sedan and then


I know. A blaze of headlamp steers its cones

like the hands of a clock, and I see


the face, like a god’s, at a distance,
smiling, thinking twice, returning to me.

Jennifer Keith is a writer/editor for Johns Hopkins Medicine and plays bass for the rock band Batworth Stone. Her poems have appeared in Sewanee Theological ReviewThe Nebraska ReviewThe Free State ReviewFledgling RagUnsplendida, Best American Poetry 2015JMWW, and elsewhere. Keith received the 2014 John Elsberg poetry prize, and was a finalist in the 2021 Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace. Her first full-length book of poems, Terminarch, won the 2023 Able Muse Book Award and is due to publish in 2024. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.