“Taxonomy of an Automobile Accident” by Samantha Deal

Samantha Deal


I don’t remember being baptized, but I know it happened. It makes perfect
sense—all the water and the saving. Most everything you see isn’t
what you think it is. I was in the 7th grade when a science teacher explained:

Glass isn’t a solid—its pieces are too far apart. This is why old windows sink
into their frames, why water can swallow you, can rearrange its parts
and fit you inside. All these things we learn—I don’t know what to do

with them. If this window is really just a slow-moving liquid, then why
won’t it let me in? I’m pressing but all I feel is my palm and the cold
surface. It’s 42 degrees at 12:04 a.m.—A hypertrophic scar will heal

with an excess of tissue. An atrophic scar will form a sunken recess
in the skin. This is what happens when the supporting structures
are lost. Think of drowning, walking pneumonia. If you knew

every language, would you have a sound for it? If a scar
is the epilogue, what is the wound? What is a 7-letter word for
“to name?”—I’m afraid that everything I don’t know how

to say will gather and gape like this. An injury does not become a scar
until the wound has healed—If I could, I’d call it a deepening, a parking deck
full of wind. I’d call it unfixable, I’d call it hollow. Think of a field

full of snow, think of the static glow on the downstairs television. Every light
is a house, is a holder, is a person. How many hands am I not holding
right now? I’ve touched a thousand windows and they all feel

the same. In kindergarten they teach you not to write letters
from the bottom up—You’re supposed to start at the top and drag
the ink down. My older sister says there are two ways to draw a face:

Either you start with the eyes and the mouth, or you start with an outline,
a jaw and some hair. In one version, there is a white space waiting
to be finished. There are things that don’t grow back—To mend

the damage, a scar wall blocks off cell communication. This is where I don’t
sweat, don’t grow hair, don’t notice your palm pressed. Skin scars occur
when the dermis (that deep, thick layer of skin) is damaged. This is the missing

nerve. Think of a broken faucet, a loose doorknob, a picture frame
without a picture. I’m convinced everything has a place inside of it—
a space meant to hold something else. Think of an old stable,

one where the wood’s been drenched in horse flank and feed. My older sister
was one of those blue-eyed sullen girls, the pastel sort who seem to belong
with horses. She got paid to sweep the stalls, and came home after dinner

full of the smell. Once, she told me she’d had this dream where she was riding
in the car with me and Tucker: It was after the accident but we were all in the Scout.
I saw a cloud of dust and then the tree. If I’m quiet enough, I can almost hear it.

I’ve seen the pictures. I know what happened—A skin scar will leave a trace
of the original injury—but it didn’t feel sudden. People talk a lot
but not about some things. It felt like an airport terminal, like waiting

for your name to be called in class. If I could show you, it would be an interstate
at midnight—power line after power line, field after field. Tobacco, cotton, grass.
There was so much grass. I knew where I was before I opened my eyes.

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Samantha Deal: “I first read Marie Howe’s What the Living Do for a creative writing class in undergrad. Afterwards, I felt like I had been punched in the face. I still feel that way when I return to the book now, eight years later. I guess I’ve always thought of poetry as an endless attempt to say exactly what we mean to say, which doesn’t happen very often. But, when someone does manage to bridge that gap, I want to feel the sting. It is a good pain.” (website)