The Thing that Keeps Me
My earliest memory is of crawling to the edge of a cliff
and seeing nothing but pink and blue clouds beneath me
spreading so thick and solid they looked capable of holding me.
My mother said she almost lost me that first camping trip
in the Grand Canyon, she says she thought I was asleep
and she turned her back for just a moment, just a moment
and I was almost gone. She says this is why
I’m so afraid of heights now, that my frantic parents’ reaction
to my explorations of that cliff edge
must have scarred me for life.
But in these memories of myself
crawling quickly and purposefully toward my certain death
I am full of giddy, infantile delight, and I don’t remember
the terror of my parents’ disapproval, the panicked screaming
and understandable overreacting
which surely must have ruined the rest of that morning.
Even now, when my stomach lurches when I step
too close to a railing, or stop at some scenic overlook
there’s a small part of me that’s convinced that
instead of falling, I am meant to fly
and the steady, adult reasoning that keeps me from testing this theory
from hurtling over the edge and into the air
is tenuous at best.
Fourth of July
We decide it must be a young man
probably a boy
because men don’t drive that kind of scooter
lying on its side in the road
surrounded by sparkling blue safety glass
shattered in jagged little cubes all over the road.
It’s impossible to look away.
We’ve all become ghouls
as we inch past, born along by a crest of slowing traffic
taking in the panicked look of the driver
as he steps out of his damaged car
steps towards the disaster that wasn’t there
just moments before.
It’s impossible not to look at the body
as we crawl past the wreck
see first his legs, his arms spread out
we want to know but we don’t want to know
where his head went, if it’s just too dark to see his head
if it’s still there, or if it’s really gone
we can’t help ourselves.
Holly Day ( hollylday.blogspot.com) has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Hubbub, Grain, and Third Wednesday, and her newest books are The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), Book of Beasts (Weasel Press), Bound in Ice (Shanti Arts), and Music Composition for Dummies (Wiley).