“By Luck Alone He Is Here” by Angela Janda

Angela Janda


One morning last summer while I was sleeping
my three- and five-year-old left out the front door
and walked toward the park, up one side street
and across another, along the sidewalk
of Comanche Avenue where cars go 40, 45
in two lanes an arm’s length from the curb.
Someone saw them and, I suppose, realized
the not-quite-right of it: small humans out alone
at 6 a.m. I didn’t know they were gone until
one returned and woke me and brought me
to the courtyard where I found two pressed-lip
strangers with his brother. Shortly after, at a public
pool, the older one had to be lifted up from
underwater by his armpits by a lifeguard after
slipping from the end of a slide into a current
that kept him down. A tangle of body held
in a blanket of blue. The expectation that he
would surface. The realization that he would not.
My distance from him. A boy’s body at the mercy
of the flood. I’d rolled over and shut my eyes;
it was me who’d encouraged him to slide. Did I
know? Should I have known? The whistle.
The cold water of the question.

from Poets Respond
January 15, 2023


Angela Janda: “Kyle Doan, 5, was swept away from his mother into California floodwaters on Monday. He has not been found. It is difficult to speak to such a tragedy—the boy was here, and now he is not here. Everyone made decisions with the best information they had. He was a kindergartener. Four foot, 52-pounds. Black puffer jacket. I dropped my 48-pound kindergartener in his green puffer jacket at the school playground this morning. The click of the car seat belt. Every effort we made to let them grow and keep them safe. This poem speaks to the terrible second-guessing; could I have done better? Was it enough? I have experienced enough near-misses as a mother to know the thin distance between here and out of reach.” (web)

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