You're back again, still standing
ankle deep in red-tinged moss by the edge
of the lake, your buddy Clint, your girl Virginia
and you, sixteen, drinking beer, laughing
should we go to the fireworks show?
Trust in this, your forty-first re-telling,
trust I'll take you somewhere new.
Even if you do go, you make it home
because, instead of Clint, Virginia
sits next to you. So when you stomp
the throttle she touches your right wrist,
whisper, "We don't have to
speed. We're better when we go slow."
Which is to say, you don't scream
around that corner, your buddy doesn't
yank the wheel, you all don't hit the tree,
Virginia, sixteen, doesn't die.
You grow to actually love her, to receive
fully what she said one night after the drive-in,
"Loneliness has made us victims of desire."
Receive what's true: her wisdom, her gift
at dowsing the sweetness that runs
in all beings, even you. Way far
better yet: you don't drive anywhere,
Virginia says, louder, "Let's not go." Speaking
through her body, through her eyes,
she says, "Why so much thirst for oblivion?
Come sit with me on the moss. This is my
chance to show you what it's like to be alive."
She blows a breath my way.
I breathe it in, feel the yen
for death loosen its noose. Soon
it's evening, the sky explodes with stars,
the beginingless, the endless, so close
we can feel them on our skin as we perch
on the mossy lip of the black lake now
a night kingdom of ten thousand pyres.
--Peter Harris, reprinted from Crab Orchard Review