For Matthew Yarnell
How appropriate, those two “ones” in eleven
standing side by side, the left only slightly longer. Like a left leg is slightly longer.
Or two haystacks standing side by side
one burning more quickly and thoroughly, the one that got the first match.
Korean grandmother beside me on the R train
Nose deep in her paper and sticky bun
feels the meteoric fireball warm her plastic window.
She glances up then turns back to Page Six.
I mumbled under my breath
I trust you with my life as I walked to 25th street station.
Steps from Greenwood Cemetery the almost ghosts of firemen screamed
up the Avenue, disturbing my reverie. I thought of the firemen I pulled groggy
from their beds to rescue a brood of half dead kittens pinned beneath scaffolding.
Later, drunk on gin and tonics I saw the image of the Virgin in soot;
human flesh and fax cover sheets carried on the breeze
to my brother’s front yard in Brooklyn. Financial Projections, Interoffice Memoranda,
singed at the edges, but otherwise perfect, unharmed.
1986 Honda Civic, light blue, with Terrapin Station bumper sticker parked
under gathering trees. Pot & patchouli, Tijuana blankets in the backseat; forbidden
from riding in it I headed home. The next morning
it was wrapped around a telephone pole.
Then that next summer there was another car, a truck,
I traced its oil rainbows with my toe in a puddle outside Pasquale’s Pizza.
This time it was a boy I liked. Streets lubricated with summer rain, an unseen ditch, and ditchweed. Two teenaged
drivers lit like Roman candles on Christmas.
Only it wasn’t Christmas or even night.
It was Tuesday; clear and blue and beautiful.
You were fast asleep in the back seat of Kate’s dad’s
brand-new Passat as black ice pounded us for 6 hours on the New Jersey Turnpike
and a blazing, neon cross sneered from the grill of an 18- wheeler riding our tail.
I chewed my mouth to ribbons, a pocket-sized bird thrashed in my chest.
I recited the Lord’s Prayer (I made it up, I didn’t know the Lord’s Prayer),
and smoked. You slept, then the rain finally stopped.
The highway was about to end at Pittsburgh
When ice, or was it glass, shot out in a perfect arc, mid-air
It was the impact of a crash 30 feet in front of us.
Just keep driving baby, I said, just keep driving,
and we did, and the glass fell softly all around us.
But you knew nothing about this
You were asleep in the backseat and why would I tell you?
Should I have?
Then so many year later, all that glass and fire and metal;
I saw the smoking carcass
(My brother and I’d walked 14 blocks with a wine buzz)
but I didn’t think of you immediately.
Or for days, even. I called your voice mail.
Then I remembered the view from your office
and how there aren’t any other buildings
with 103 floors. There aren’t any other buildings like that one,
from where standing and looking just right you can see
all the way back to your parents house in Jersey.
You can see all the way back to tiny cars and trains,
snaking one by one over the river and through the tunnel,
taking us, innocent as doves,
from one place to the next. From this life, to the next.