A Last Hayride

James Tate

              I was driving home late on a winter's night and when I pulled up to a stop light I saw coming out of a thick fog a large farm wagon being pulled by two horses. In the wagon were about twenty-five elderly persons. Some were slumped forward half-asleep, and others appeared to be singing. I had my window up so I wasn't sure if anything was actually coming out of their mouths. The horses were straining to pull such a heavy load. They moved slowly as if seriously considering each step. It was quite cold out. No one was behind me so I sat through the next green light and watched the wagon disappear into the fog. The next day I read the local paper from cover to cover. No hayride.

James Tate was the author of over twenty poetry collections, including Worshipful Company of Fletchers, which won the National Book Award, and Selected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award.
Originally published:
January 1, 2002


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