This poem won Editor's Mom's Choice in the 2017 2-Day Poem Contest
The car: a mercurial beast, frightened
by his touch or is it he who jumps? His hands
on the wheel, two stippled stones, sinking.
His feet magnets on the pedals, a push-release
like breathing, but what do legs know
of traffic circles, pedestrians fearless
in crosswalks. He sits straight-backed, eyes
forward, a daguerreotype of stillness.
Her downfall: she can’t imagine things
might be otherwise. Why would that child
clearly rooted to the ground unplant himself?
She can see everything. Everything. But not
before it happens. Her mind is a camera,
she thinks, not a deck of tarot cards.
The centre absquatulated, he sees in reverse
vignettes. Her tunnel vision and the tunnel is
the part he cannot see. He drives home by
memory: muscle or counting the streets.
She used to mix paint, recommend the
almost whites—colours that didn’t insist upon
themselves. Tsked at the bombastic shades,
she used the word copacetic as if it were a
natural thing. Now her life is a house unroofed,
the cold sky coming down, deafening.
Sometimes he opens his eyes to find
they are already open—the world shocking
in its emptiness. He knows now how easy
it is to confuse nothing and everything.
The shadows unlock themselves, knock
into one another, reveal themselves
to be the thing all along: shadowless
children, feral or foundling, cropping up
like rapid-fire flowers, long-legged
in the scotoma that might be the sun.
I think of their house or rather smell it—
the pine of the bunk bed, grand-baby
jungle gym, where I woke always
startled to have slept so near the ceiling.
The dank petrichor of the bathroom, his
breath in the morning, the cooped-up
scent of all the toxins working
to keep you alive.
She asks, isn’t this why we’ve been
going to church all these years? Everything
is a test, she says. Faith begets
faith, she says. And hers is unwavering,
even if it has yet to name the child.
Published online July 13 2017.
This poem was a winner in CV2’s annual 2-Day Poem Contest. Every April, CV2 challenges players to create a new original poem that uses all 10 words of our choosing. It’s poetry under pressure for prizes, publication, and personal bests. Learn how to sign up for the next 2-Day Poem Contest.