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Accident! Accident!

It was a kind of kindness, seeing you by accident
in the window of a noodle shop, your back
to me, your face in three quarters, in conversation
as animate as I remembered, and if you stiffened
seeing me, or if you saw me, was unclear,
though the snow was light, my coat red,

and I remembered how I’d read
that there is in the universe no design, just accident
and that our place in it is always unclear
because there is no seat to occupy, front or back,
in some celestial chariot driving dark highways, the driver stiffened
to brake for dumb deer, which is a conversation

between pity and pragmatism, the sort of conversation
we once had in a botanical garden, with the peonies red
as any overblown rose. Then the wind stiffened
our collars, and I would later claim accident
for taking your hand as we found our way back
through the hedge maze—wasn’t I disoriented, unclear

on how to navigate a safe way home? Were you unclear
on what you wanted from that hand? This was a conversation
we’d toss to one another, back, and forth, back
again, until our hands stained red
and I said I was sorry I’d hurt you—accident! accident!—
but what did you expect? So you stiffened

your narrative resolve, just as starch stiffens
a creased collar into sharp beauty, though the utility is unclear.
The new story allowed for no accidents,
and I see you now, telling it in conversation
and I wonder how wicked a woman I read
as the pages turn forward, and when the pages turn back

do I soften into something sweeter, before my back
turned and I emerged a harder creature, spine stiffened
against the final rites given, riot act read?
Do you, by the final progress, sharpen from unclear
protagonist to hero? There’s no need for conversation
when one has a sword of self-regard in a universe of no accidents.

How beautiful, seeing my red coat reflecting on your solid back,
your face in an accidental moment, lips stiffened
as you try to divine the heart’s choices, your constant conversation.
Posted 01/08/13
Books by Rebecca Hazelton
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