“Crashes are preventable. Accidents are not.”
—State Traffic School Instructor
During Hurricane Mo I eyed the sand
thinking I’d find sea shells and sand dollars there
once the sea stopped churning. Thinking I could
collect them for my daughter. Then I remembered
she was in the water and couldn’t swim.
That when I waded in after her, she pushed
me away, said she loved Hurricane Mo.
Then I remembered: Mo is her boyfriend.
Wanted by cops. Wanted by my daughter.
Then I realized I’d finally fallen asleep,
that this was a dream about my daughter
and her coked-out boyfriend. So I drove home.
It got so dark I couldn’t see. I felt a crash,
heard a siren.
Then I realized I was still
asleep, dreaming about my daughter,
about the creep who squeezes through
our doggy door to tiptoe into her room,
and about traffic school, which I had
to attend this morning because I ran a red light.
Writing this poem during traffic school, pretending
to take notes, I realize my wife and I
are the red lights our daughter cruises through,
that she’s still learning to navigate these roads,
that there’s a Mo at every intersection, gearing up
to hit on her, hit her head-on,
that poems are seashells carried to us by the tides,
that it takes more than waking up
to make a nightmare end.
from Adjusting to the Lights
2020 Rattle Chapbook Prize Winner
Tom C. Hunley: “I started writing poetry at age eighteen after reading ‘In the Desert’ by Stephen Crane. I have now devoted more than 30 years to a study of the delicious bitterness of my heart.” ( web)