Thursday, September 15, 2016

One Moment, Replaced By Another

(after Yusef Kombunyakaa's "Thanks")

In his poem, the soldier describes the bullet
that didn't kill him. How it happened to miss
it's chance, mere inches to one side of dead-
center, hitting a tree that grew in that place,

He wonders what it was- Wind-Drift? Grass
Rustle? Light-Glint off Gun-Metal? Any one
of which might be the angel that saved his life.
He barely mentions another story of survival,

this one, a grenade that failed to explode. I think
we can only come close to Death just so many
times, so we assemble A Story to Tell, including
all the other almost-times. I won't dishonor him,

thinking I know anything of what it's like to be
someone who has served. My story is different
altogether, except it too is a ghost of "What If?"
Young kid, I was visiting relatives in Florida,

swimming off of Grandpa Frank's boat, close
by the Gulf of Mexico. I don't remember
the charter fishing vessel, the people aboard
shouting at me; I don't remember any sound:

just the wet weight, as I pulled myself out
of the water, looking over my shoulder at
the hammerhead, furious at the fishhook
in its jaw, how I didn't scream as it burst

from the water, big as Death. What I remember
was the fishing line, marking its path towards me.

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