Movie Scene on a Highway Shoulder

Eileen Huang

First-Prize Winner
2017 Patricia Grodd Poetry Prize for Young Writers

Picture this: A scene from the movie Snowpiercer, where the main character
            needs to make a choice.
A film analysis: the camera pans left,
            right, left again,
growling first car to stuttering caboose. The audience
            contemplates with him, eyes
following the list of pros and cons—Front, back? Life, death?
            Schrödinger’s cat on an express in lieu of a paradox. The director says,
The camera tells the story, see,
            our audience is with him.
They will take every step he takes,
taste every word
            inside his head, feel every turn that twists
like a No. 2 pencil in his chest, and then
            the conclusion, the inevitable voila that whatever he does
fits in with, makes sense in a universe
            where there are only hills upon hills of snow,
no polar bears, no Sunday brunch, no climbing over highway dividers
            to the pet store to look at cats Because I
just want to look at the cats.
Picture this: I
            am standing on the side of the road,
nakedly aware of looks from drivers.
            You are pulling me toward your house.
Let’s go meet my mom. But I haven’t washed my hair in a day.
            I have to go home. I have physics homework to do.
I’m wondering if the camera is telling the story,
            if it’s whipping its black, mechanical neck toward your face,
mine, my knotted hair,
            the glowing store sign in the back that wants you to
Vaccinate your dog today! I am wondering if the audience is with me,
            if they see my neck twist back,
forth, and back again—Please
            let’s just go look at the cats
—if they see
the two roads in a yellow wood not diverging anymore, but collapsing together
            as if they were lovers at an airport terminal, if
they see your mother in the distant future, lying in a blank hospital bed,
            her insides scooped into a plastic bowl,
not moving. Not thinking about the story that she’s telling. My cat died a year ago
            and I thought about her yesterday. The crud glued
to the corners of her eyes, the white,
            heaving belly. She died a year ago and yesterday
I cried for her the first time. I think that’s the funny thing about it,
            that you don’t miss someone until you realize they won’t
come back, waiting for you on the basement steps,
            until you’re not allowed to anymore.

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