September 21, 2019

Poem: A Voice From the Wreck

Poem: A Voice From the Wreck


The speaker in Chad Abushanab’s poem is neither witness nor victim but oracle. Staggered lines and irregular rhymes offer little reprieve from a world spellbound by despair and pervasive violence. Classic Greek hexameters alternate with shorter, bumpier cadences; each return to the left margin allows us just a gasp of air before snapping us back as desolation sweeps in once more. Hopelessness galvanized by rancor, retribution on a loop: The damage runs deep. This voice will haunt for a long time. Selected by Rita Dove

By Chad Abushanab

I’m an accident on the south side of the town,
on the outskirts, where the desert holds its ground
against the streetlights’ last defenses. I’m the fire
leaping from the Chevy’s frame to smite the sky
and drain the cool out of the night. I’m the cell phone
in someone’s shaking hand, woken up
by the explosion in the street, the calls for help.
I’m an ambulance, a siren in the dark.
I’m the stoplight. I’m the kid out driving drunk,
vodka on his breath and bile in his throat.
I’m the headlights slamming final recognition.
And when you whisper names like curses
in your room, I’m the smell of gasoline in bloom,
the bloodstained moon behind the clouds.
I guzzle broken bones and busted radiators,
coolant running thick in thirsty gutters.
And if you ever manage to shut your eyes, to sleep,
I’ll wander from the wreckage as you dream.


Rita Dove is a Pulitzer Prize winner and a former poet laureate of the United States. She edited “The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Poetry,” and her “Collected Poems: 1974-2004” was published in 2016. Chad Abushanab is the winner of the 2018 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His debut poetry collection, “The Last Visit,” was published by Autumn House Press in March 2019.

Illustration by R.O. Blechman



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