donald justice | poem to be read at 3 a.m.

3 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 17 | October 20, 2005

Poem to Be Read at 3 a.m. by Donald Justice

Excepting the diner
On the outskirts
The town of Ladora
At 3 a.m.
Was dark but
For my headlights
And up in
One second-story room
A single light
Where someone
Was sick or
Perhaps reading
As I drove past
At seventy
Not thinking
This poem
Is for whoever
Had the light on


I have received a number of comments about the origin of the inscription above, as well as an occasional question concerning proper grammar (case). The line, for me, became one of those unforgettable lines of poetry which unknowingly takes permanent residence inside us, ready to be referenced at any time and place.

The poem where the line appeared (and still belongs in full measure) surfaced more than twenty-five years ago for me at a time when I was living an on-the road-writer’s existence, Door County to Chicago (a pathway/lifeline of freelance writing I pursued for ten years), forever finding my way between two places, all hours of the day and night, passing through fields and small towns.

A kind of a dream state: city life, country life. Writing stories and poems in my head while speeding through rural landscapes, loving the light in barns early in the morning… slowing down through small towns in pitch dark…finding comfort in the window light from farmhouses hovering in the night air like blessings. Norbert Blei




3 responses

19 05 2008

What city is he refering to in the poem “a poem to read at 3 am” Is it in iowa. i read somehwere it was not!

21 05 2008
norbert blei

I have seen at least one reference to Iowa.
I’m not aware the poet ever identifed the state.
I’m not sure it matters.
The strength of the poem is beyond Ladora.
–norbert blei

7 04 2011

The poem references the small town Ladora, Wyoming.
Hope this helps!

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