The Clarity You Gain After a Close Call

When I hear the thunder I call his name.
I hear something bumping in the garage; the rain comes in sheets.
Opening the front door, I see him in the yard, carefully arranging white metal folding chairs behind a pitching net. Is it raining?

What are you doing? I call.
I’m doing this, he replies.

I stand on the front porch, thinking how green the grass looks, how the rain has flattened it, and I have slipped through a veil. I take everything in and catalog it.
He smiles crookedly: one front tooth.

I’m going to take a shower, I tell him.
Okay, he says, giving me a small nod to add importance to my actions.
I am the stranger here.

* * *

It’s been a long time since I wrote a poem.

Last week the Husband had a close call when he was helping with some demolition at the new facility our church is moving into. He was carrying a large mirror out to the trash when it shattered, fell, and sliced his forearm open to the bone. He was high on the triage list, and got into the ER, sewn up (deep sutures for the muscles, “mattress sutures” for the surface, it was awful — for me, maybe for him too), and was discharged within two hours, a record in our family. Friends helped me with the boys and transportation, and I have said thank you to God and the connected forces of friendship, medical science, and healing a million times this week. When we got home I felt as if the world had suddenly resolved into high definition, crystal clear focus, and it was beautiful. From the cracked pavement to the unmade bed, beautiful.

The next day, Sunday, I woke up to a heavy rain. The Husband and the Ice had already headed out to church and my oldest was still asleep. The Maker, true to his name, was bumping about in the garage, ferrying equipment through the rain and into the front yard for… a construction of sorts. Like everything else, to my renewed senses it seemed incredible. An act from a play on another planet. I turned around and scribbled the poem on a scrap of paper.

A few days later in the week I emailed local artist Ruffin Hobbs who was going to do a commission for our company. Minutes later I received a reply from his wife, who reported briefly and movingly that her husband had suffered a terrible accident and died two weeks previously. I stopped everything to phone my husband, hug my children, and ache for a woman I’ve never met.

I have appreciated the intense clarity of focus, but even a middling-proximity to the suffering and pain of the world can become excruciating.

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