Today's poem is by Erin Rodoni
The race is won or lost in shavings of second. Now: The space
between starting block and gunshot, between locked
knees pounding chest like a stranger's fists
screaming breathe goddammit breathe. Now,
when I was sixteen I killed myself and my best friend.
Hydroplane: Another word for that moment when the story
jumps the tracks. Truth: My body yanked us out of skid
the way a hand recoils from a pan before it feels the burn.
What I mean: Reflex saved us. We both grew up. We
both had daughters and for so long I thought this meant
the flesh is wiser than. Forgive me: I've been careless
every day since then. I've left the door unlocked, gas on,
water running. Things unsaid as if we had all night.
Once I dropped my weeks old daughter in the dark,
caught her between heartbeats. Maternal Instinct.
We've all heard the stories: A woman lifted an SUV
to free her child's leg. Other stories: A woman drove
an SUV off a cliff. Her child strapped securely
in a safety seat. Shocking really, how a little water can lift
rubber from road. Think of snowpack as windshield glass:
How rain adheres to tracks we can't see: How skis drift
an infinitesimal degree. My daughter's forehead testifies
with bruises, goose-eggs. Proof: If vigilance and a moment's
grace is what it t akes then I can't. Understand: I wasn't even
paying attention: Screaming my own bad song
over some other bad song. When the wheel pulled
one way, I pulled back, like a dog unwilling to let go
of its bone. It's messy, instinct. It's flinch and cringe and fist
around your softest places. It's the baby turning blue
and all you remember from that CPR class is the sick
suck of rubber, the heel of your hand squishing
a too-pink doll on your forearm to the mantra: Please
let this never happen to me. Absently we steer
our children away from the sharp edge, the too-big
bite. But it takes the precise violence of mind
to know one must break the ribs to save
the heart. Hydroplane: The instant before you know
you will arrive in time: Or won't. I still drive that cliff-
road. When distraction slackens my grip
on the wheel I feel the tug of many paths.
Now, they pull one way. Now, I the other.
My daughter, asleep in the back seat. Below:
The bay. Flat as a reptilian eye
Copyright © 2016 Erin Rodoni All rights reserved
from Ninth Letter
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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