Poetry December 1995

The Accident

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audioear picture Hear Erica Funkhouser read this poem (in RealAudio).

She heard the nasty scraping of sole and heel
against the clipped turf of the doormat;
then their neighbor rushed in,
just back from the hospital,
where everything was fine, she said.
Fine. Her son had to spend the night
for observation, that was all.
He had been grazed by a delivery van
while crossing the street on his bike.
A few bruises, a superficial wound
above one knee. Incredible luck.
The neighbor was still wearing
her jogging clothes—pale blue
ripstop nylon, the same blue flame
along the instep of her running shoes.
She slid a chair from underneath
the kitchen table and sat down,
her long legs straight in front of her
like a ladder to a different world.
It was when the neighbor answered "yes"
to a question the woman's husband
had not yet asked
that the woman finally understood.
Her husband had not even mentioned eggs,
but the neighbor knew he was going to cook for her.
How many times had they eaten together,
the woman watching wondered. Enough.
Her husband worked slowly,
strolling back and forth between the stove,
the coffee maker, and the table
where his wife and the still-flushed neighbor
leaned on their elbows discussing
the hazards of dusk.
On the counter, the eggs
developed little caps of moisture.
Her husband put lots of butter
in the pan and popped the toaster manually
before the toast could burn.
At long last he broke the eggs.
She had never seen him
do it like this before, two-handed.
He always liked to show off
by breaking the eggs with one hand.
This evening
his hands were trembling
as he cracked the eggs
on the skillet's rim, hurrying to slide
the whole brimming mess into the pan
to quiet the sizzling fat.

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