an incident concerning headlights and headstones

He’d been away for any number of years,
Days cascading over the spillway of time
Into pools of weeks, oxbows of months,
And though the town was much as he remembered it
(Though a little more tattered and careworn:
Another broken windowpane here,
A wall in grave need of paint there,
One or two more storefronts gone to plywood)
The cemetery was all but labyrinth to him,
A corn maze of granite and narrow drives,
The plots having metastasized, the stones having spread
Like so much crownvetch overpowering the simple grass,
But he’d been able, after any number of false-starts,
Uncounted instances of double-backs and do-overs
To locate his father’s marker
(The man gone some forty years now,
Taken by…well, who knows what
His mother, stunned by the prospect
Of having to step into the dual role
As nurturer and breadwinner,
Too stunned to even think of requesting an autopsy.)
He’d come, ostensibly, to make his peace
(Whatever that hackneyed phrase entailed)
But he’d ended up, if not as mute as the stone he faced,
No more than a cow-country Caliban,
Haltingly sputtering bits and bobs of half-phrases
Concerning the implacability of accidents, the vagaries of chance
The coffin-lid limits on mere men and women.
He’d given up the ghost, finally,
And as the daylight slipped away on the bumpy old horizon
He’d simply brushed some dried bird guano from the gravestone,
Then picked the dead bits from the flowers
Doing their level best to hold on
In the urn he’d wrestled from his mother’s ancient station wagon
Two, perhaps three, days ago
Before settling back into the car to try to divine the way
Back to the main road
(He’d found it in surprisingly short order,
And, perhaps a quarter-mile or so down the road,
He’d come upon a small rabbit,
Frozen mid-lane by his headlights,
Not knowing whether to flip or fly;
He’d missed it by mere chance, nothing more,
And he wondered if the poor thing
Would be so lucky with the cars behind him.)

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4 thoughts on “an incident concerning headlights and headstones

  1. I was just lately thinking that I hadn’t read your work in some time, wkk. This poem, told in your detailed narrative, is just the thing to begin my day. I am most struck by the reference at the end to the fatalistic appearance of the rabbit – almost incidental, but containing such vivid symbolism in context.

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