Sometimes I misremember and I
am the one looking out the clinic window
when the SUV rips through a red light
and hits the drunk just as he sprints into the street,
flinging him up and over like he is made
only of his soaked clothing. But the truth is,
my back was turned. Or how else could I have seen
the lightning strike of terror on my daughter’s face
and moved as if the wet sound of body upon asphalt
were her own head splitting open. Why else did I
lunge toward the tender warmth and hum of her
before I followed the other woman,
who dropped her purse on the white tile
and ran outside to part traffic around the young man’s body,
her hand thrust out from her like Moses before the Red Sea.
I knelt at his side and made him a tent with my coat.
It was pouring. Blood from a cleft in his temple
eddied in an oily puddle. I pushed my fingers
into the soft folds of his throat seeking a pulse and felt
a terrible lonesomeness flutter beneath my own skin.
I asked him his name, I know I did, though the sound of it
slipped into a current of shock and was carried away.
In the distance, a train blew its whistle and farther still,
the moan of a siren moving too slowly toward us.
When I was young girl in Sunday school,
I imagined the multitude of fish suspended
in those massive cliffs of seawater
must have been so perplexed watching the Israelites
walk across the ocean floor as they hung there,
a wall of unblinking eyes,
their round mouths opening and closing.
The world seems to be a certain thing
until a moment illuminates the text
so brightly it becomes unreadable.
When the medics arrived, I left the man
and returned to the building where my daughter watched
from the other side of the window. My daughter,
who I send into this violent life over and over.
And I held up my bloodied hands to show her
I could not open the door myself.
I looked into her eyes, blown wide with fear
and wonder, and asked her to let me back in.
Allisa Cherry grew up in a rural religious community seated in an irradiated desert in the southwest of the United States. A recent MFA graduate from Pacific University, she has just completed a manuscript that explores the way faith, like landscape, is often reshaped by violence. Her work has received Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations and can be found in The Westchester Review, EcoTheo Collective, and at SWWIM Daily.