Kate Northrop


Iowa & Other Accidents


There was snow that afternoon covering the road
which twisted toward the secret
of water, the mysterious surge

of sludge & loam, the living
Mississippi, unlike the rest of the Midwest,

drawing itself through landscape. There was an appointment
you were keeping

in Moline: a cheap hotel, booze, a little blow. On the Lower
East Side, a woman

spills her martini, makes a gesture
like erasure, or regret. It was almost Christmas.
In the rear view

suddenly, the car you will always describe as oncoming
must have slipped into a skid

and now, rising up over the bank,
it startles you—that reflection. In Moline

the maid corners the bed, straightens the clean
line of sheet. Almost Christmas. On the road,
swirls of snow. On the road

the car hovering behind you, a witness,
unfortunate & so unlike the audience permitted
the distance of fictions, the artifice

of plot. And worse, of course, the law

of cause & effect: I looked up,
it started to fall. You must attach

subject to verb, must say
I saw, and did, in your rear view, the car you’d thought
nothing of,

the gray sedan lifting slowly from the common snow,
turning, and the accident
always there, about to happen.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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