March 29, 2021

Lance Larsen

AND ALSO I RAN

I wheedled a ten-minute visit from the night 
nurse. This was Friday, the evening after 
my best friend hurtled through a windshield 
at 70 mph, the day before I drove 
to a numbing family reunion for blue-hair aunts. 
He had a machine to count his breaths, 

a tube to collect his pee, and a pair of legs 
that would never again shuffle or glide through this life. 
Every six hours his Stryker bed flipped him 
like a flapjack, stomach down for now, 
with a cutout for his face, so I sprawled 
on the floor. Days before, we had lain on grass, 

close as sleeping bags, counting stars 
and girlfriends we didn’t have. Tonight, more 
of the same bull, and less. His chin and my dirty 
shoes trading gossip, the eighty-seven stitches
on his back playing hard to get, and the moon 
outside skinny dipping in the fountain. 

I was fifteen plus four months, and my friend 
was fifteen plus blood all over the Ford 
Bronco, even on the road, even on trees, 
he said, promise me that you’ll definitely check 
out the crash site. And I said no, not 
one part of me wants to see blood on trees.

Before leaving, I counted stitches on my friend’s 
bad shoulder, then touched his good one, 
warmish like when you put your arm around 
a girl at a matinee. And the hum of machines 
was a prayer to healing, and the dirty
tiles were a prayer to grit, and the intern 

was a ten-fingered prayer to vitals and charts.
And my friend saying Hey, man, later, was amen. 
Outside, the sprinklers sputtered and hissed
and did a silvery dance with the grass, the stars 
tried to go all the way with sleeping cars, 
and the dark said, What is this, amateur hour? 

I broke into a run then, sliding through chain 
link to an endless empty parking lot. With so many 
overhead lights I had three shadows at once, 
like three wavery souls. When I ran, they moved, 
one pinning me to pavement, one sliding 
off like oily water, one being born up ahead. 

What did I care? When I closed my eyes 
they went away. Just a buzzing breeze 
and these slabs called legs doing their work. 
They didn’t want to run. My lungs pushed 
them, my slippery beating heart, and my friend’s 
catheter leaking amber bubbles into room 514. 

Who needed a soul, or the disappearing shadow 
of a soul? Breath was enough, and hurrying
blood, provided it stayed inside. Nine-thirty
at night, the day after and the day before. 
A clean, brisk, heavy, terrifying, innocent 
Friday in June. I ran and ran and also I ran.

from Rattle #70, Winter 2020
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist

__________

Lance Larsen: “In a poem over twenty years old, I describe floating in a swimming pool late at night: ‘I kept the lights off to blur my edges.’ In childhood, the demarcation between self and world often felt smudgy, as if I was on the verge of dissolving into something beautiful or terrifying. It was never entirely clear which. How to center yourself on this darkly turning planet? When I try to rewind the clock via poetry, that strange opaqueness, that lovely permeability often returns. And mystery, once again, is everywhere.”

 

Lance Larsen is the guest on Rattlecast #97! Click here to join us live at 8 p.m. EDT …

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