“The Wreck” by Mike Catalano

Mike Catalano


Bettendorf, Iowa
for David Widup

It happened with such surgical precision
before sunup on the Eisenhower Highway
that no amount of precaution could separate
car metal from deer bone at high speeds.
And yes, there were flashback enactments
of past wrecks and busted vows.
But here, hundreds of miles from friends,
I rolled over on glassy, metallic fragments
as if they were transplanted shrapnel.

I knew my femur and fibula were fractured.
Perhaps it was the potion of pain and snow
that brought me back to grade school
where bullies dunked me again and again
into an icy vat. No amount of begging then
or meditation now could undo that combustion
of terror and anger. The buck, whose truncated
torso was mere centimeters from mine,
nodded, as if the guns and traps of his day
made us blood brothers rather than enemy species.

Then, with a denouement more than an ending,
the hand of God separated the skies,
shoving aside the sleet and the wind.
Help came quickly enough for me. I couldn’t
say the same for Buck whose blood
ran like rivulets over me. Perhaps I was
the aborted sacrifice, redeemed like Isaac.
It took me a year to walk again.
Maybe we really are no different, brute beasts
at best. Or just maybe I finally forgave
my tormentors, forty years too late.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002

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