What I heard was that she was interested
in accidents, so I envisioned those frozen moments
(perhaps only milliseconds), the liminal frames
when we realize an event is unavoidable,
& then it happens for there’s nothing we can do
to prevent such cataclysm:
the precarious slip from the top step;
the glass sliding out of our fingers because
it’s condensation-slick, our hand damp;
the helplessness of the right foot
when we stomp the pedal only to feel
the car continue its slide along black ice.
The accompanying sick-to-the-stomach spasm
awaiting crash, the shattering of windshield,
crunch of metal, futility of honed reflexes.
One time I managed to catch a falling tumbler
only to have it surprise itself into a hundred splinters
in my palm & fingers, the subsequent rush to the ER,
twenty-three tweezer tugs. How wrong I was.
What she had said was accidence, & by that
I now know she meant chance or happenstance,
the sheer coincidence of occurrence: that we’d be
in the same bar, though we hadn’t seen each other
in nearly ten years, so that at first glance I couldn’t say
who she was, I’d just accidently overheard that phrase
& turned. My whiskey glass clutched tight
when she waved shyly, eyes down, that ambivalent-
but-glad gesture some make at such moments.
Centuries ago they might have called this fate,
some reason to change our situations. I’d been thinking
of you just today, she mentioned. The band played
covers from the 1980s, heightening a sense of nostalgia
for everyone: The Cure’s “Pictures of You” right then—
a song from the year she was born. A song already
about longing & distance. One I never really liked,
but she swayed to its rhythm
while around us others sang along
holding one another. We had to move close to speak.
If you feel so lucky, maybe you should play the lottery,
her sister said, that cliche way we all want fortune
to lead to better fortune, for opportunity
to open up to more opportunity. So television’s taught.
Rom-coms, too. Her smile, I will say, remained
enigmatic & seductive both, & I remembered
I once described her as inscrutable. A compliment,
I maintain. When they left, I felt glad
to have seen her again, & to have relived those months of
not flirting because it had never been about desire
despite her sister’s teasing. A happy accident, she said
before leaving. How right she was, I thought, driving
the rainslick streets home, the car hydroplaning slightly
as if to remind me of all the things we can’t control.
Copyright 2022 Gerry LaFemina
Gerry LaFemina believes poetry is the highest art form; believes everyone should rock out with a guitar at least once–even if they can’t play; believes teaching is a calling; believes the New York City subways are beautiful (even if they smell bad); believes in love, bigfoot and other mythic creatures; believes in the power of a good meal, a good night’s sleep, good whiskey, and good friends; believes in top-down driving and fast music; believes laughter is a type of prayer….
I second everyone — one seamless, fluid, moving, damn good poem, Gerry!
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LaFemina’s poem is a soaring homerun! Best, Syd
I agree, Syd!
As always, I delight in these moments in my day–but today, just a bit more. Intriguing poem by Gerry. The visceral movement of the lines leans the reader in. By poem’s end, I had already begun to read it again.
Yes, I love this richly textured and moving poem.