Burned by Tragedy’s Strike

Only trying to help, he reached—

with his arms, without his wits, without intention, pure reaction, 

like an impulse, he flew.

And then he landed, crashed.

He came to the rescue but then needed help, 

so much more than anyone could believe, could expect.

Just trying to lend a hand…stop the ball going over the edge, keep the game going, 

everything for the game, the kids, his granddaughter–playing.

Unthinkingly, he, trim-fit-tall and lean for his age, stepped a few, 

lunged, stretched, caught the ball out of bounds, out of the air, 

without hesitation, without strain or struggle, without looking, 

not knowing where he was, how close to the edge, the precipice.

And before the paramedics came, as the game continued, 

the girls playing with wonder, big worried question marks hanging above their heads, 

I slowly, tentatively, nervously peered over the side, 

caught a glimpse.

His crumpled body, or a part of it, I don’t know, 

being too afraid to see what was down below the field, 

down the embankment, he lay there.

And all I could do was shrink back, away, 

and rush to my daughter on the field at the end of the game, 

steer her away, not to go anywhere near there; don’t look.

But whatever I saw stays, 

like destiny or fate or a horror movie scene that really scares the shit out of you, 

so realistic, and yet

this was real, 

his dis-animated figure lying there in some ball or sprawl or head over heels, 

like a toppled monument in the grass, 

Sadam Hussein’s giant statue with the stoic expression on its face unchanging 

as the stone body keeps teetering by the shoving hundreds of hands, tipping, 

and then crashing again and again on replay in the news reels;

I cannot see, can’t summon it up as true, 

like a cartoon soccer grandpa looked frozen in mid-lunge, 

body angled shot from a cannon in goal keeper’s dive for the mid-air ball,

toward the pendulum arc his outstretched arms and the soccer ball configured

against the backdrop of space, sky, 

downward sloping grass and lower-down-the-slope trees,

and then as I saw him there motionless, suspended, 

he disappeared, 

popped into another universe.

A stranger’s shell broken below, 

still and ever so, 

no longer ambulatory, though alive but forever stilled–

his arms, legs, pelvis, neck, chest and heart, 

except for the abysmal ache of regret and enormous question mark:

how to live now, between oh so close to dying and not dead.

Too fucking unfortunately bad for him, the dumb mother fucker, 

his mind still moves–and remembers and remembers. 

Like mine–branded burnt.

And they–lawyers, relatives, investigators, insurance adjustors, soccer fans, and the projectionist

behind my eyeballs–will not let you die in me,

you, a mere artifact, statistic, flattened newspaper clipping, docket number, 

now a symbol, airy thin and translucent like a story never told, 

ancient as memory itself–a living tragedy, chaos confirmed .

Another Ode to Witness

Old friend, we’ve gone this route before,
you, witness, wag shaking by the door
seeking, waiting, leaping and running
never late nor early, always just coming
arriving just before me, eagerly unsure
hot and breathing heavy, somewhat sore
when we go long and distant, you, me
running by the beach, cooled by the sea
those days we both were stronger then
me with solid knees, you, a leaner bend
back high and haunches thickly sturdy
unlike now as we hack and sweat dirty
dripping salty stains down our backs
your mouth sweating along the tracks
we no longer run, you and me, my pal
my faithful fan knee high wagging tail.
I call you witness for a nose knows all
those you wait for, scraps to ever fall
side by your keeper, quiet, ready sight
the world tethered to sense and fright.
We who savor your riches watch you
watching us awaiting the familiar cue
“Come to me, Kiah.” Let vigilance rest,
in settled dreams, my furry ever-guest.

Photo credit: Chris Clevely