By Brittney Corrigan
When he’s late, you don’t assume
he’s stopped for milk
or is stuck behind a train.
Instead, you picture metal against metal,
slick streets and overturned cars,
sirens, the voice of the woman
from the hospital when she calls
to tell you the news.
You think about the sound you would make—
first silence, then an opening like blinding
light, collapsing into a slide of scree.
Which friend would you call first?
How would you get to the ER?
And afterwards, would you give up
your life and move away
You think of how the sun breaks
on the window of the church
behind your house, tumbles
down the walls into the street.
Conjure the scent of cigars and rain
as he curls around you from the cold side
of the bed. Wonder why you yell
at the dog when what you mean to do
is change the way you live.
So you’re drawn to the disasters
in the news. The shipwrecks,
plane crashes, bombings. The story
of the ladies of Locherbie
collecting the clothes of the dead—
torn, bloodstained—how they washed
them as best they could, folding and pressing
each shirt, each dress, and returning
them to the families like sleeping ghosts.
When you can’t sleep, you invent
what could happen. You imagine the pain.
You can’t place it, it isn’t yours. But you
hold it in your hands like a stone,
roll it over and over, feel the weight.
You can’t imagine putting it down.
Your shoulders tighten like clouds before
a storm, the deep blue sky moving in.
But then he pulls into the drive, the dog
wakes and stirs, you hear the key in the lock.
And you’re done imagining the woman
without a husband, the husband spinning
into this tree, that guardrail.
The ambulance, the helicopters,
the world a potential falling.