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The Accident

by Alan Shapiro
While it was happening,
          the absolute
not me of it, the all
          of a sudden see-
through whir of wings beside me
          that the late sun
just as I looked up
          turned to a hovering
flash, a watery gray—
          green iridescence
as the beak dipped into
          a funnel of blossom,
dipped and was gone, and not even
          the blossom's white
tip bent in its going,
          or shivered—

While this, which could have happened
          without me, here
or elsewhere, happened the way
          it did, and would
continue happening
          for others, for no one,
for nothing but the blind urge
          of its happening,
this ever-transient
crossing of momentums
          that was, in this case,
beautiful but could
          have not been and so
seemed all the more consoling
          for the thought—

even the thought of death,
          just then, consoling,
shaping itself inside me
          as the now there
now not there hovering
          of bird, flower, late
sun iridescences—
          beloved singers,
you who in the aftermath
          surged from the shadows
to sing in your different voices
          the same song, Route
of evanescence, Mother
          of beauty, It
avails not, time nor place,
          distance avails not,

if you had known, just then,
          three hundred miles
away, in another state,
          that one of the nurses
getting my brother up
          from the commode
and back to bed, the one
          who held him on
his left side, the dead side,
          all of a sudden
lost hold of him and, as
          he fell hard, grabbed
for the loose papery gown
          and ripped it off,
so that he lay there naked,
          utterly exposed—

beloved singers, tricksters
          of solace, if
you had known this, seen
          this, as I did not,
you would have offered him
          no sumptuous
destitution, no fire-
          fangled feathers,
or blab about death as being
          luckier than one
supposes. You would have bowed
          your heads, you would
have silently slipped back
          into the shadows
out of which you surged forth,
          singing to me.

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Copyright © 2002 by Alan Shapiro. All rights reserved.
Song and Dance by Alan Shapiro; Houghton Mifflin, P. 25.