Casualty Report (from the upcoming Deaths & Transfigurations: Poems)
Paul Mariani

The car coming on, then crossing the divide,
you at the wheel, distracted by our earlier fight.
Blood on the dash, blood on the steering wheel, your
sweet face shattered in an instant, so that the slant light

still, after fifteen years, reveals the seismographic scar
across your upper lip. Harm done to others, harm
to myself. After all these years my words, however
well intentioned, fail like the useless charm

words so often are. Too many nights you've heard me start
from some fitful, endragoned sleep, thrashing in the chill
eddying of first dawn, my heart thumping
against its savage cage of bone, replaying still

the oncoming car, swerving, then crossing the divide.
How many times I've startled into night,
relieved to find you sleeping there beside me,
like some brave new world in the uncertain light

off starboard, a gift of such proportions it still
amazes. Live long enough, and we will surely all
turn up on someone's list: the accident report
filed by the trooper at the scene, the hospital

bed with its checklist, where this time it's you awake
all night, and me an obit in the morning paper. And there
you have it, the latest casualty noted over coffee,
before I rise up at last to rinse the silverware

in the kitchen sink, replaying the morning's latest
tragedy over in my mind, the way I've done so
many times before, wondering if I just might get
the right words said this time, or simply let it go.

Paul Mariani
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February 21, 2018
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