Friday, May 10, 2013

Laura Kasischke

by Laura Kasischke

The officer asks if I know
why it is I’ve been pulled over. Oh,
No, I say, not

that armed robbery back in ’88. It is a joke

only a woman with two
children in the car, a woman
of a certain age could make. There’s a small

pleasant birthmark shaped
like an island I’ve been to on his face.
I show him the proper papers. Yes,

I’ve been to that place,
and I know about narrow escapes —

many sputtering coals
tossed into the mossy shadows among
the forget-me-nots, the violets, the wild oregano.

In a hurry, ma’am, today?

Hell no.
We could have been early
or late. Who cared? They never unlock that gate. What
difference would it make?
What I was after was just
a graceful passage to another place,
and now I know there’s no such thing.

A flock of swans
risen from the lake.

No swans. No way.
The self, contrary
to popular opinion, is not

the thing that remains. We are
infinite, and it isn’t
a question, is it,
of whether or not we could be replaced. Who

among the millions of us
would be worth the trouble it would take?

Truly, I wanted only
to appear to obtain such grace, and then

through the years somehow I became
a high brick wall fully expecting
the little blue flowers to thrive in my shade.

Once, I let a crescent wrench
rust for years in snow and rain. I knew

exactly where I’d dropped it, could
have taken you to the high
grass into which I’d let it slip, but there it stayed

until I saw the paperboy pick it up
and put it in his pocket one day.
Strange, only
the other morning
my son said he wanted
to be a policeman, or a demon, when he grew up.
To get bad people, he said.

And I said, yes, and poured more
coffee into my cup, and I

remembered the signs, that the signs
were posted all over that place:

Thin Ice, No Skating.

We skated anyway.

The yellow tape.
The psychology majors.
The structuralists, the policy-makers. And how,
when the time finally came
to stand before them and try to explain,

I had nothing at all to say.

Only to find myself suddenly unable
any longer not to say it, finally,
having you
here like this, all
ears and leaning
into my window with an island on your face.

True enough, I was not yet naked.
Comprehensive collision, the neighborhood was safe.

I had an address in it, and a name.  Only
to find you this patient beside
my motor vehicle in your final disguise, all
merciless kindness, laughing a little, with a boy’s
turquoise eyes.

A voice says Hurry, I’m burning.
A voice says Where are you hurt?

All those years, I thought
if only there were a fine, I could pay it
wholly, and this slow torture would be over!

A voice says This
isn’t the end
you know, no
monologue can save you.
A voice says, Yes, Officer, I know
why it is I’ve been pulled over,

while you write it down,
as I always knew you would.
This gentle reckoning,
all my life,

I was driving toward it as fast as I could.

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