Granite Bay, CA, USA
Granite Bay High School
the amber bottle was in your easy hand
and the liquid was stinging the back of your callow throat.
open the door, chauffeur, and introduce
the passengers to the leather upholstery and the gas pedal.
cramped companions. claustrophobia on the emptiest night.
your seatbelt hangs from the silver crook of the waning moon
because sunshine beams from your headlights. the world
revolves around you. chases your sinuous tire tracks.
arrives at the fuddled scene. surround-sound screams.
a lurid collision and rollercoaster lurches. this is not a theme park?
you sag out the driver’s-side door. mind fissured.
blanching face. wind tugs at your unbuttoned blue flannel.
atom by atom, you materialize in a slanted reality.
you condense into a timorous entity, a violin voice on the phone.
nine. one. one. what’s your emergency?
your grisly words shudder at themselves as they
exit the comfort of your mouth and crawl
into the dispatcher’s conscience. prod at the backseat bodies.
invent a pulse and smudge off the red
and inhale the adrenaline. inebriated trance. toes throbbing
from kicking the electricity pole that decelerated the vehicle.
barely upright. it tilts to the left but still points to heaven.
the gilded badges spill out of a whining patrol car.
they have you remote-controlled and they gouge
their notebooks with sobriety as they
pluck a story from your tangled answers.
follow the white line. yes, the one in the center.
a dissociation between the painted white
curving down the street and the sharp angles of
the glass polygons that burst from your window.
you wobble along the road marking until you
hit the courtroom wall wearing orange and handcuffs.
someone else chauffeured your friends to the morgue.
This piece was previously published in Paper Crane Journal.
Even after reading this piece multiple times, that final line is still consistently a sharp punch to the gut. It depicts a single moment in time in such a stunning—and terrifying—way. You can almost experience the subject’s shock and daze firsthand through the poem’s mosaic of sentence fragments and jagged imagery, roiling snippets of a picture too overwhelming to put together. Tangible and disturbing, “survivor’s guilt” will leave you grateful for any less tragic reality, yet mournfully guilty over a crime that was never your own.
Kate Rowberry is a Californian writer whose work has appeared in The Louisville Review, Ice Lolly Review, and elsewhere. Her writing has also been recognized by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers and Bow Seat. She is somewhat guilty of tsundoku.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR