From the first, I was too reluctant, achieving by dribs and drabs,
Happy to linger in shallows while others jackknifed from cliffs, wrong
To exact perfection from a sad piece or add notes to a proven tune;
But ever the classicist:
in swimming lessons, slowest to learn;
In fights, tentative, preferring the hammerlock to the jab and hook; cautious
In the earliest romances, choking in the clutch, fumbling the caress; or shy
Among the crew-cut Cupids bristling at the armory’s weekend dances;
But shifty in every game, keeping it close. Always holding still
And adjuring others to go slow
until we leapt forward that night out of control
And pinned to the seats of Tyler Wilson’s outlandishly unstock Ford
While, from the opposite side of the valley, scalding in each curve, came the black din
And brunt of Sonny Walker’s highjacker Chevrolet, everyone screaming
And bearing down to be first across the bridge at Hurricane Creek.
Many trophies show us frozen: a leg poised for the hurdle, an arm cocked for the unanswerable spike.
What I remember through the windshield’s splintering lens is time, a mailbox
Rushing by, the letters TURRENTINE,
then darkness rolling inside;
Though memory, at best, retrieves maybe six percent in studio light,
So even now I think we might have turned:
smart with his hands,
There is a kind of savior who blusters through the South, good with animals and machines,
Who surely somehow would have found a gap, through an open gate
Into a marshy cornfield
or up a logging road into a hillside wood.
At any rate, there is just a little while, shy of any bridge, just as judgment
Balances its two blind alternatives and a third accelerates head-on.
I’ve made a careful study: things that can only be accomplished in deep space,
In another language, in far history, at an almost incalculable speed. Courage is not included, or much foolishness.
They spin the purest glass, they split the atom, they speak with God.
They make a sort of Teflon hip and attach it with metal screws,
Only the threads upbone keep stripping
so they have to operate
Again and again, and what she’s accomplished is more of a gait, really,
Than a walk, so when she moves toward me, across any room,
I think too much of my own will
implicated in that dragging brace.
Each step is obviously trained, and the whole earned motion full
Of muscle, plastic, and bone
is coordinated by nerves even the
Strictest dance does not require. She has said there is no fault,
But even in such talk,
grace occurs as an accident someone caused.
If what I require is a thing too certain, braided from probabilities,
There is another thing
articulated in the scars that saved her face—
And no right now in that night we were shaken and rolled like dice, no right to
Say this guilt to be alive is love, or the opposite of lucky is wrong.