“The Red Blouse” by Roderick Townley

On this fourth day of National Poetry month, here’s a frightening poem by Roderick Townley.

The Red Blouse

Across Kansas on cruise control
he drives toward a woman’s body.
Stubbled fields flush orange

in the final light. He squeezes
the pedal . . . 75 . . . 80,
a mad organist playing his deepest note.

Ahead 200 miles, a woman
crosses a room, sweetens
her tea, meets with students. But

something’s off. A humming
like bees, like tires over darkening roads,
patrols her mind.

She searches the mirror for clues.
A coil of hair, loosened, hangs
like a bell-pull. She pins it up. No

use. Nothing is any use.
She touches her breast lightly
through the red blouse.


Originally published in The Yale Review;
also in Poetry: An Introduction (4th ed.),
edited by Michael Meyer. NY, St. Martin’s Press, 2004

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