It’s dark in the early evening now.
There is a veil of soft, black velvet
That falls on the curved windshield,
Hangs over the gleaming black hood,
And covers the street’s blacktop
Laid like a ribbon by the music school
Where tiny lights gleam like fly wings.

The car veers left at the corner
Onto a street banked with cars
Jam-packed into endless rows,
Nose-to-nose, back-to-back, curb-
To-tire, bumper-to-bumper vehicles
Looking like still life silhouettes,
Immobile beasts, heads to the ground,
Grazing quietly in the center of town.

Suddenly there is an open space
That appears ahead on the right
And the car brakes to turn into it
Revealing a solid yellow line
At the edge of a concrete sidewalk
causing the black car to balk
And the steering wheel to whirl
Back to the street, past the far
Lot where cars are lined up,
Side-by-side below a street lamp.

The cars stream by on the left,
Piercing lights on, hunting, hunting
For a place to rest, when a flash
Of light reveals a miraculous sight —
A spot open like a big, black hole
One length from the corner
Just in front of the red STOP sign,
And the car swings in and halts,
Headlights shining in the darkness:

Night school has begun.

Hiltner reads essays for ETS during the academic year. She has taken Korean and Japanese classes at Princeton Adult School.

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