Broken Images

We glimpse
what nothing must feel like,
a reflection on water, thin,
delicate as your wrist dipping
into the calm river where
the danger in any moment
eddies about, swirling. Consider
the nest of cottonmouths,
the ghost of it so visible on air,
the story goes like this,

a girl had fallen water-skiing,
and when her friends circled
around to find her, someone said
they hung from her
like little black necklaces,
and when this startles you
awake, you find evening
has settled in, slipped its way
through sycamores along
the lush banks, and this alone,
the ease at which darkness returns,
finds its place in this world,
scares you more than anything.


Driving home one night through North Carolina,
on a back road that passed near our motherís
familyís farm, the smell of sharp mud in the air,
we could barely see the road before us, even
with the brights on and the way light swayed out.
Before it happened, I remember we laughed
about something Iím sure neither one of us could
recall now, even if someone were to place a gun to
our head, pushing us, trying to scare the hell out of us,
Iíll bet we wouldnít remember what made us stop
watching the road, even though it was difficult to
see anything in front of us, anything at all, so hard
to make out even the bright yellow lines glaring
now, this is when the doe lifted into view, softly
placing itself before us as we sped into the night
veering, and the deer must have thought we were nothing
more than a fence it had to cross, because that is
how it came upon us, in midair, and God, I canít
remember what it was that must have made us
laugh out loud beforehand, that caused us to become
distracted in an instant, but one thing I do remember
is the animalís nose, soft and black, reflecting what
I want to think was starlight, and nothing else.


Because we sometimes take each otherís stories
for our own, I want to believe I am part of this one,
one where a stray crawled under the crawlspace
of a new building. Tenants were complaining
that all they could hear was a dog whimpering,
the pathetic lilt building like waves from the
ground up until their rooms were filled with it,
nothing but pain, someone said it sounded like,
their small apartments only full of this one sound.
What is amazing is that it went on all day until,
in the story, they call the fire department,
because someone thought it was the right thing
to do, and in comes this rookie, dressed in full
gear while the others, veterans, some who have
spent their lives diving into nothing but black
smoke, they pass the time telling each other jokes,
and where I am in this story? Iím laughing,
there on the truck, when the rookie brings back
the dog, heavy, sprawled like a sack of huge potatoes,
and it doesnít take much to know that itís carrying
a litter, its nipples bright pink like buds on a dogwood,
and when he rests her on the ground, he
looks up at us, this kid, this look about him that
says he was prepared for anything, and I love him.


When grief becomes the only thing, you live in broken images
a girl pulled from the water and covered with snakes,

or the doe who smashes a headlight on a car, and then,
rises like something not of this earth, vanishes into night,

or even fiction, someone elseís story you overhear one day
at work, how a firefighter rescued a stray, and in its belly,

you imagine, the utter darkness that rests there, swirling
about in the warm water, waiting its turn to be born.


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