Early December in Croton-on-Hudson

A poem by Louise Glück, published in The Atlantic in 1967

Photo illustration by Miki Lowe

Severe, biting, disaffected, bleak: These words are used often to describe Louise Glück’s poems. When she won the Nobel Prize in Literature earlier this month, she was praised for writing “that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal.” The same adjectives could apply to “Early December in Croton-on-Hudson,” published in The Atlantic in 1967, in which Glück recalls a blown tire on a trip to deliver Christmas presents.

The poem feels precisely like early December itself: as cold and raw as “the recent snow,” as barren and stark as the “pines pared down.” And with the threat of a lonely pandemic winter looming, there’s something particularly chilling about the image of a stalled car on a snowy road—stuck in the middle of a descending darkness, and unable to move forward or go home.

Faith Hill