Outside Charlottesville one night, you let go
of the wheel, rolled the car and slammed
upside down into a roadside ditch. The metal gave
like muscle gives,
like cell walls collapsing.
You hung strapped in, lids fluttering, and tried
to crawl up the sleepthroat
of your life. You climbed backward
past packing your dead parents' house,
to see yourself take up painting again,
and us, your two grown children, shrunk to babies,
ferried back to hospitals.
You watched your wife get slimmer and climb,
once and for all, out of your convertible.
All the days unmade themselves,
narrowed to a point, then burrowed to the underlife
you sprang from. You were just digging in
when they sawed you out. With pincers they pried
your neck off the ceiling,
and the "jaws of life" swallowed you back
into your house of cut, contusion,
bruise, house of parts. House
of ribcage cracked, the concussed skull
that hauled you through the next
spooked year, house stormed with her voice.
House in which you soured in the basement
with your books, and the television glowered,
mute like a face. House of clutching,
thrashing love, barbed
tongues, clumsy gift. House, once,
of chopping blocks and bottles, a rolling
pin razing rows of tumblers, wooden spoons
splitting on small palms held out
like stunted rubbery wings, feathered welt
rising on a wrist from a belt buckle's tooth.
That was the house where I saw you,
a year after the accident, a little drunk,
cock your left leg, twist, cup your hand
behind your ear, and pitch a phantom fastball.
For a moment you stood looking over your shoulder,
fleet as a vandal whose rock's just
broken out a darkened church front.
Through what panes--into what deserted places
_____smoky with the uncascading of days--
through what murk of choices made
and not made did you hurl it?