The Wrecker Lot

After the latest town wreck, my mother
would drive us past the wrecker lot
to see the twisted shapes of metal;

bumpers and back ends deranged,
sharp edges glinting; passenger doors
cut away to remove the dying,

the already dead—the bodies, we heard,
sometimes burned beyond recognition.
Evening quiet would come down

from the trees as we sat, motor idling,
on a side street, window rolled down,
radio off, looking through the chain-

link fence. I imagined faces slammed
against dashboards, necks snapped,
doorframes thrust inward, tears,

brain matter, gas tank burst, ribs
mangled, lungs punctured, the slow
beginning of flames, the moment

of recognition.
                           I couldn’t stop myself.
Shouldn’t someone enter the mind
of a teenager facing her final moments,

no one present, just her and the tree
her sliding toward proved powerless
to halt? Shouldn’t someone think

of how she tried to lift her pinned arm,
of how she spoke her new child’s name,
knowing she wouldn’t live to hear

the ambulance arriving? What if,
in another time, we had turned one way
and not another? Isn’t the story out of

our hands, revealed to us in small
moments, now and then an hour, a day,
a memory that keeps returning? Some

of their names I’ve carried decades, to no
real end, for no good reason other than
the weight of thinking of the absence

absence makes of them, of how we stay
a while, taking in as much as we
can bear, then pulling away, faces

staunch against what’s left, the hopeless
inconsequential senseless familiar streets.

Jeff Hardin is the author of Fall Sanctuary, recipient of the Nicholas Roerich Prize, and Notes for a Praise Book, selected by Toi Derricotte for the Jacar Press Book Award, as well as Restoring the Narrative and Small Revolution. His poems have been published in The New Republic, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Hotel Amerika, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. He teaches at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, Tennessee.

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