I once fell for a woman who liked to say,
There are no accidents–
Her way of assuring me
I’d live and be well
without waiting around
for her to stumble into my arms.
But now the governor, surely wise,
— and of a practical bent–
assures the public:
Sometimes there will be accidents at railroad crossings,
and with them will come death and great loss.
Hence, we need no wasteful speculation.
But sometimes life just hands us such purposelessness
even in a place named Valhalla,–
what ought to be this little slice of heaven,
but with schools and hospitals and cemeteries and railroad crossings,
so many signals we should have heeded of impending misery,
and of gods meddling willy-nilly in men’s affairs.
This was the same Valhalla where,
when I was a kid, I was sure
I killed a bunch of strangers in a car, quite by accident,
at the very moment I learned I was in love–
and my life would be over,
just as it was readying to start.
Then the other day, it was here in Valhalla
I picked up a shovel,
dug into the mountain of cold winter dirt, assembled with such care,
to bury a friend: this, a kindness, I was assured.
O, praise be a life that can bear the weight
of one sad intention after another.
Alan Walowitz is a poet who lives in Nassau County, where he keeps his eye on New York City proper from his doorstep. He teaches some days at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY, and other days at St. John’s University in Jamaica, NY.