Various and Sundry Poetry

luck and other variables

You were not on that SamTrans bus heading down 280
that caught fire after a late-morning collision
with the blue Corolla. You did not have to be
snapped out of your seatbelt by a frantic passenger
when you turned, white-faced, away from the flames.
You were not rushed in a racing ambulance to San Francisco General,
where surgeons worked on your body, doing their best
to piece you back together.

Neither were you on the bridge in Minneappolis when it collapsed,
sending its human cargo hellward, tipped into gape-mouthed river.
You were not in a Utah mine, breathing your last hours in darkness.
You were not in a 12-seat chopper screaming toward Afghanistan.
You were not caught, held, lied to, raped, distorted into death.

You were somewhere suburban, ticking off your shopping list,
returning the late videos and stopping for ice cream.
Or, having decided to let rush hour do its thing without you,
you left the house at 8:30 instead of 8, and got to
squeeze on by the blackened wreckage on the side of the freeway.
You were watching television, listening to the radio, reading the paper
with its overlarge fonts and daily permanence.

You were lucky, or late, or 6,000 miles away,
or born in the wrong decade, or a red-haired woman,
or near-sighted, or left-handed, or in the bathroom, or something else.
But another was not spared these small discrepancies, and for that
you are wringing your hands in disbelief, and a sadness
you don’t quite know what to do with but hold, like a tiny broken bird,
close to your hot cheek, your dark blue veins,
your stubborn, indefensible aliveness.