Thinking Ahead to Possible Options and a Worst-Case Scenario
by James Tate

I swerved to avoid hitting a squirrel
in the center of the road and that’s when
the deer came charging out of the forest
and forced me to hit the brakes for all I
was worth and I careened back to the other
side of the road jus as a skunk came toddling
out of Mrs. Bancroft’s front yard and I swung
back perhaps just grazing it a bit. I glanced
quickly in the rearview mirror and in that
instant a groundhog waddled from the side
of the road and I zigzagged madly and don’t
know if I nipped it or not because up ahead I
could see a coyote stalking the Colliers’
cat. Oh well, I said, and drove the
rest of the way home without incident.

SOURCE: “Thinking Ahead to Possible Options and a Worst-Case Scenario” appears in James Tate‘s collection The Eternal Ones of the Dream: Selected Poems 1990-2010, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Tate’s many poetry collections include The Ghost Soldiers (2008);Worshipful Company of Fletchers(1994), National Book Award winner;Selected Poems (1991), winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Constant Defender (1983); Viper Jazz (1976); and The Oblivion Ha-Ha (1970). Tate’s honors include an Academy of American Poets chancellorship, a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, the Wallace Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. (