Traffic Accident on Main Street
by Eric Paul Shaffer

The street is nowhere to meet someone you’ve known
all your life, and of all, that broad concrete is nowhere

to find your uncle sprawled, bloodied and dazed
by whatever event leaves us to lie on our backs at noon
across the centerline. Hit by a bus or a bike, the man

is prone, with the entire world behind his back,
and for a moment, I’m able to imagine the planet directly

above him as he lies at the lowest point on the globe

hanging from the drooping curve like a tear
about to fall. The gathering weight of the world grips

and suspends him above a cloudless blue thin and bright
enough to conceal the 13.7 billion light years between him

and the edge of the observable universe. One good turn
deserves another, but when his breath fades, I can see
that he nor we nor I will get another. Maybe passing away

expeditiously is best, even dying among idling engines,
congested traffic, and a distant, impatient tooting of horns.

I can’t think of anything he or we or I have done badly
or well enough to require a return or irrevocable dismissal
to paradise or inferno. The street is scattered with accident

debris and familiar blank faces over bent necks, crowding
around to look down on him with the same mean thought.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 23, Issue 3.

Eric Paul Shaffer is author of seven volumes of poetry, including Even Further West; A Million-Dollar Bill; Lāhaina Noon; and Portable Planet. In 2022, Green Leaves: Selected and New Poems will be published by Coyote Arts. More than 550 poems have been published in America, Australia, Canada, India, Iran, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, and the United Kingdom. Shaffer teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at Honolulu Community College.

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