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Gregory Djanikian

Gregory Djanikian

Gregory Djanikian is the author of five collections of poetry, the latest of which is So I Will Till the Ground (Carnegie Mellon). He directs the creative writing program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Rural Accident

What would you do on a night
with no moon in the starless sky

and the summery grass wet
and colder than summer,

and a motorcycle suddenly visible
in your headlights, crumpled halfway

up a field, a helmet lying
by the side of the road  

and a voice from the ditch by that road
calling help me to whom else but you

and you with no phone
and no stomach for such things

aiming your headlights on the body
the leg bent severely

the bone sticking out, the face
sixteen, unmarked, surprised

to be where it is or to watch you
walking awkwardly toward him

and what do you do when there's
no needle or morphine

you like a bad angel hoping
for some nerve of his to snap

or a deeper sleep to come
and lift the burden of responsibility

I'll get help, you say, throwing
your sweater over him, touching his hair

remembering the house with lights
shining a couple of miles away

and what if it were your son
lying crumpled in the ditch

and crying out sharply
from the middle of nowhere

what would you not do to lug him
into your car, jutting bones and all

no matter how loudly he howled
or how the howling knifed at your gut

but all you're doing now
is turning away

leaving him in the wet grass
with his crushed voice

without someone to stand
over him and spread his hands

on everything broken
someone like you

getting into your car
speeding toward the distant lights

through every dangerous curve
as if your recklessness were a kind of mercy

as if you were doing all you could
to ward off the darkness

the faster you drove,
the further you left him behind.


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