Blue Light in the Dash


93 pages
ISBN 0-919591-99-X
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Peter Babiak

Peter Babiak teaches English at the University of British Columbia.


The automobile has long been a stylish cultural icon, not only as a
metaphor for the tempo of modern life but also as a vehicle for
adventure, romance, and passion. It is this cluster of themes that makes
Blue Light in the Dash (dedicated to “whoever’s in that other
car”) such a robust collection of poems.

The title derives from a stanza in the first poem in which a driver
reflects on “the way a small, blue light / in the dash on the
night’s hundredth mile / pierces every plane in you that ever / longed
and wanted.” This same incandescent figure of desire (is it the
high-beam indicator?) appears again in “Driving South,” where “the
blue light in the dash” is figured as “the night driver’s blue
jewel / set into the dark.” In fact, the color blue is a leitmotif in
a number of poems (“deep blue verbs” in “Anger and Our Own Naked
Hands,” and the “blue embrace” in “A Moment at the

Very Centre,” to name only two) no doubt because in its subjective
sense it reveals the mood of the speaker, who is perhaps best described
as a coolly melancholic, fortyish woman who has a lingering flair for
fresh experiences (“I am not my age,” is the final charge in “Moon
in the Mirror”) but who also awaits the tranquility of middle age
(“I’m tired / of working birch oil into / my breasts ... for the
post-modern dance” says the speaker in “Single Bed”).

There is a positively sultry tone in some of these poems. It emerges in
the minimalist quatrains and couplets of “Further Blues” and in the
beatnik cadence of “The Family’s Mood Indigo,” but it is
particularly intense in Brooks’s celebrations of lesbian sexuality. In
“Local Honey,” for example, the speaker anticipates “this sweet, /
precocious business / we set our bodies / to” with “wild measurement
/ of dripping / time”; and in “Climax,” the carnal instinct peaks
in a moment of self-knowledge: “the lover / I make myself wide / for,
withdrew / her fingers / from the mossy / pond and ran / her hands down
/ the length / of me / twice: / half my life / is over.” It is in
these latter works that Brooks, who comes across as a younger, earthier
Adrienne Rich, conjures an enchanted world of lyrical passion.


Brooks, Brenda., “Blue Light in the Dash,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024,