By Gianmarc Manzione
Originally published in Verse Daily 2005.

When I tried to have a look

at the wildflowers planted

along that strip of road

in Virginia, all those hues

of pink and violet,

the three-ton truck

whining to a halt

just a small car’s length ahead

of me, how could I have known that

when I strapped the seatbelt

across my youngest daughter’s body

that morning—

my impotent protective gesture—

I assigned her a fate

she neither earned nor understood;

the shrieks

of my wife and children

jolting my eyes

toward the coming catastrophe,

announcing the cruel randomness

with which we’d been chosen

to die.

And before flattening myself

between the truck and the road,

why did the final thought I had

include no fear, no concern

for my family

nor what I’d done,

but instead recalled

the wooden green turtle

I’d roll along the beach

as a boy, and the ones who swore

they’d take it from me

unless I ate a fistful of sand;

how often I wandered back there

to recover it from the burial

they condemned it to

after I ran away, digging deep

in the quiet ground of my cowardice.