It’s been a while since I posted anything in Versus. Hell, it’s been a while since I posted. The blog’s had to take a backseat to “real life” for a few weeks, but I’m working to rectify this. I’m only 10 days away from returning to teaching, and I’m already getting that itch to write, which is always a good thing. I’ve really let my writing go by the wayside. This is the problem with growing up. See, responsibility gets in the way of idealism. And despite the romantic notion of the “struggling artist,” one can’t pull that off when he’s making child support payments, car payments, mortgage payments, credit card payments, student loan payments, etc. You know why struggling artists can pull off the struggling artist persona? Because they were smart enough not to own things, nor let their things own them. If you have nothing, you have nothing to lose. I’m not saying that’s the “correct” way to go through life; rather, it’s merely a way.
What does this have to do with today’s poem? Not a damn thing, really. I wrote this poem when I was still in grad school, well before I was married to my now ex-wife. I don’t think we’d been fighting at the time, nor do I think this had to do with our actual relationship. What sparked the poem, really, was a car accident we were involved in during my second year at the College of Santa Fe, when the two of us, along with two other friends, were t-boned by a drunk, uninsured driver. I was taken to the hospital via ambulance and admitted with a gash on my head. I ended up being fine, but the experience certainly scared the shit out of us all. It was awful, really, and I guess that memory hadn’t left me when I wrote the poem.
When I Quit Loving Her
I want to believe things happen for a reason,
like the new tire that catches a nail
and slowly deflates overnight. Paralysis, even.
Or the family pooch who, while playing fetch,
decides to run away howling. For me
it wasn’t until after the ambulance showed up
that my knees buckled and gave way.
My body didn’t know enough to crumple
on impact, so instead it kept on living,
floundering around the crash site for clarity
while the medic strapped her helpless body
to the stretcher. I watched the crew load her
like a shot doe into the cargo space.
When they fixed the Oxygen to her mouth,
I breathed easier, watching the mask fill
and empty with her small, regular breaths.
Through the square of the rear window,
I saw everything pull away from me: the rust-
colored pick-up that T-boned our compact,
the cuffed and stumbling Indian we later learned
was drunk, two state troopers building roadblocks,
lighting flares. Maybe animals feel the need
to pick their way through the forest
to somehow locate the benefits of being leashed,
but the whole ride to X-ray I never once thought
Faster, or to buck my heels against the bench
in back of the rig as if it were a horse
that pulled up lame.