All the Carefully Measured Seconds
Back then I still believed it was possible
to prevent certain things, until that hot afternoon.
It was the middle of grain harvest, August of ’54,
when Fred climbed down from his stalled combine
and took off for Montrose to buy a part.
Later I realized the part was a ruse of fate, like
something made up to get someone to a surprise party.
So many times I reran those last hours,
adding or subtracting a few seconds here or there.
Lingering a moment in the field, he could have
noticed the grain shiver as a cloud passed by,
he could have paused by the barn to admire the blue
and lavender flecks adorning the pigeon’s throats,
he could have stopped by the house to finger
the soft leaves of African violets
on the sill, he could have slipped his arm
around Ella’s waist as she stood at the sink,
her hands in the dishwater.
But, he swatted the grain dust from his overalls
and climbed into his green Buick to keep
his appointment on Highway 38. Even then,
it was not too late. He could have floored
the car just this once, he could have let
the wind rush in, raising his sparse strands
of matted hair to dance in the breeze.
When I saw Fred’s car again, it looked as if
it had been punched by the fist of some god
though surely not the same one who keeps
the earth spinning, the sun and moon rising,
passion ascending to fuse new life,
the rose unfolding with tenderness,
the worm tilling the orchard floor,
all the carefully measured seconds
adding up exactly to us.
by Josephine Redlin
from Ploughshares, Sping 1995