V  P  R

Contemporary Poetry and Poetics





What a way to skip classˇ
Annabelle dropped out of school
by plunging from a fourth floor
window.   She somehow didn't die,
though shattering enough bones
to give herself a lifetime of hurt.

She clipped a balcony, landing
half in a hedgeˇfactors 
that probably saved her life,
along with the rain-soft ground
blanketed in leaves.

Nobody saw her fall,
but the first story floated 
had her blitzed, not suicidal,
just foolish enough to lean out
for a gulp of night air,
then losing her balance.

A later look at that window
revised the tale:  she would have
had to climb and squeeze out, 
unlatch in a way that could
hardly be accident.   Still, she was
drunk, and maybe the booze
cushioned the folly
of her collision with mother earth,
relaxing her limbs
like a cat's for the impact.
She must have swallowed
a whole constellation
of lucky stars on her way down.

She couldn't drive herself
deeply enough into the earth
to die.  So she is broken
when maybe she had hoped
to be planted.  Nothing
I can say will slide through
that window or keep it
shut.  Idly I wonder, 
walking past her dorm, 
which window it was.

No ledge there seems wide enough
to fit Allison, main character
of Annabelle's story turned in
three months before her
"accident"ˇAllison who balanced
outside her window for three 
potent inconclusive pages, 
delirious images burning
through her like scotch, cold blur
of bathroom tile, lizard grip
of a boyfriend's hands
on her paralyzed thighs,
his cock jamming in,
and then kaleidoscopic
love croons and snaky 
imagery, elliptical and
surreal, as Allison dreams of
swimming down, down into
cold mud at lake bottom.

Her story had no good
conclusion, the class agreed,
though all pronounced it
powerful and promising.
I didn't even need to remind them
that fiction's fictional:
they all said the narrator,
and picked apart scene
and syntax.  But then Annabelle, 
luminous with our praise,
blurted out at the end
how it really had happened
to her friend, and you had
to shine a light on such 
bastards, you couldn't just 
swallow and suffer. 

Suddenly it matters
whether Annabelle actually
is Allison.  Matters, 
that is, to me, who cares 
too much for stories,
including the one I'm telling
now, in which I've already
changed names and revised 
Allison's stepfather into
a drunken boyfriend
after a friend worried
that detail, and to be honest,
Annabelle's prose wasn't
too good, really, even if
the class thought it was.

Maybe all this revision matters 
less to Annabelle now, or anyone. 
For she's giddy these days
with better drugs than scotch,
strapped for months to a bed
and too groggy, I heard,
even to click through channels
of the TV that will tell her all 
the tales she needs or can stand.

Her pelvis is crumb cake,
her jaw wired shut, and I 
don't know about her mind.
I gave her an Incomplete,
sent one postcard to the hospital
that went unanswered,
then filed her story in my cabinet
with all the others I can
neither reread nor throw away. 

© by David Graham


Contributor's note
Next page
Table of contents
VPR home page