The day the brakes failed on my father’s car
we should have died. What did I know of life
at eight years-old? In nineteen-eighty-two
the roads weren’t equipped with guardrails yet
and rain drenched the swerve of asphalt
above the reservoir as our tiny
Fiat gripped the curve and my father’s foot
fumbled at the pedals. Out of the blue, leaves
lodged in my eyes, and I felt the absurd
thrill of flight – acrobats on a trapeze –
forgetful that we were three mammals trapped
in a moving vehicle crashing through trees.
The patient water lapped the muddy bank
dozens of yards below. Like a tin spaceship
we hit the earth, struck down by sycamores
that caught our car as on a spider’s thread
before it plummeted past underbrush
and downward to the waiting reservoir.
My father split the windshield with his boot –
gave three hard kicks and the safety glass thatched
like an eggshell. He sent me scurrying up
to flag down help. From the blasted shoulder
our totaled Fiat was a soda can
crushed by an ogre’s foot, tossed carelessly
into the woods, an afterthought. Alone,
I waved down motorists, shrieking and pointing,
convinced I was a ghost until one stopped
while dad disentangled our dog from the wreck
and scrambled up to meet me in the sun.
“We must be dead,” I told myself, “and this
Author’s Note: This poem describes a real car accident I was in with my father in 1982, when I was eight years old. The accident took place on a stretch of Warren Rd. as it exits Cockeysville and skirts the water before arriving at the bridge. We were going camping, it was raining, and the brakes failed. Next thing we knew we were free-falling towards the water. The car fell until it came to a stop between two large trees. Below was the reservoir. No seatbelts, no injuries. I haven’t been down that road since the early 1990s, when I still lived in the area. The poem is included in my first collection Unburial.
© Marc Alan Di Martino
Marc Alan Di Martino‘s work has appeared in Rattle, the New Yorker, Baltimore Review, Palette Poetry and many other places, and is forthcoming in the anthologies Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife and What Remains: The Many Ways We Say Goodbye. His first collection, Unburial, will be published in 2020 by Kelsay Books. He currently lives in Perugia, Italy with his family where he works as a teacher and translator. Visit his website, marcalandimartino.com.