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I wheedled a ten-minute visit from the night
nurse. This was Friday, the evening after
my best friend hurtled through a windshield
at 70 mph, the day before I drove
to a numbing family reunion for blue-hair aunts.
He had a machine to track his breaths,

a tube to collect pee, and a pair of legs
that would never again shuffle or glide or dance.
I was fifteen plus four months, and my friend
was fifteen plus blood all over the Ford
Bronco, even on the road, even on trees.
Promise me, he said, that you’ll definitely check

out the crash site. And I said no, not
one part of me wants to see blood on trees.
Every six hours his Stryker bed flipped him
like a flapjack, stomach down for now,
with a cutout for his face, so I sprawled
on the floor. Days before, we had lain on grass,

close as sleeping bags, counting stars
and girlfriends we didn’t have. Tonight, more
of the same bull, and less. His chin and my dirty
shoes trading gossip, the eighty-seven stitches
on his back giving me the silent treatment,
the moon outside skinny dipping in the fountain.

Before leaving, I touched my friend’s good shoulder,
warmish like when you put your arm around a girl
at a matinee. And the hum of machines was a prayer
to healing, and dirty tiles were a prayer to grit,
and my friend saying Hey, man, later, was amen.
Outside, sprinklers did a silvery dance with the grass.

I broke into a run then, sliding through chain
link to an endless empty parking lot. With so many
overhead lights I had three shadows at once,
like three wavery souls. When I ran they moved,
one pinning me to pavement, one sliding
off like oily water, one being born up ahead.

What did I care? When I closed my eyes
they went away. Just a buzzing breeze
and these slabs called legs doing their work.
They didn’t want to run. My lungs pushed
them, my slippery beating heart, and my friend’s
catheter leaking amber bubbles in room 514.

Who needed a soul, or the disappearing shadow
of a soul? Breath was enough, and hurrying
blood, provided it stayed inside me. Nine-thirty
at night, the day after and the day before.
A clean, brisk, heavy, terrifying, innocent
Friday in June. I ran and ran and also I ran.



This piece was originally published in Rattle.

Lance Larsen, professor of English, previously served as BYU’s English Department chair. He teaches American literature and creative writing, especially poetry. He is the author of five collections of poems, most recently What the Body Knows (Tampa 2018). He has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart prize and fellowships from Sewanee, Ragdale, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2017, he completed a five-year term as poet laureate of Utah.