This poem appears in the Winter 2017 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.
—Port of Málaga, Spain
Pat could have broken limbs or hit his head
and lost his wits; he could be paralyzed
or have internal bleeding—or be dead.
He’s eighty-six; no one would be surprised.
We were to take a tour around the town.
The gangway to the terminal, though steep,
connected high; we had thus to get down.
Where was our tour guide from the ship— asleep?
The escalator beckoned. We’d been told,
Pat says, there was no lift. I hadn’t heard.
The terminal could, clearly, not be old.
I looked about in vain; absurd, absurd!
I took the stairs, adjacent; I chose well.
He had more confidence. I heard a scream,
or shout—a noise, I thought, from Breughel’s hell,
that terror which can wake you from a dream.
It was, unfortunately, as I feared:
he’d lost his balance, fallen from the top.
He lay there groaning; then the blood appeared.
The awful mechanism didn’t stop.
The mopping up was done; the doctor came
and wheeled him back. Thank God. We did not lose
much time, nor have a large insurance claim.
A Spanish hospital is not a cruise.
It still was piteous: eight wounds, deep pain,
infection for three months, a grilled-meat scar.
We saw no more, of course, of southern Spain.
At cocktail time, at least, Pat was a star.
This verse is light; the fall was not. He thought,
while tumbling, “This may well be it.” Events
are strange arrangements where our steps are caught;
and we ourselves but happy accidents.