After the Accident

Richard Cole


Only after my wife appears at the door
and tells me our younger son
can’t talk, has been in an accident, something
about a collision, and we rush out,
speeding to the intersection, backed-up traffic, and I park
sideways off the shoulder, we’re running now,
out of breath, and we enter the clearing of police, an ambulance,
glass shattered everywhere, and our son’s car,
front end smashed, stuffed with air bags,
and a van with a mom and two little kids
who seem okay, she’s talking to officers, and suddenly
there he is, shaking violently, and I hold him,
and he’s crying in my arms, saying, “I’m so sorry, so sorry,”
and I’m telling him it doesn’t matter, he’s not hurt,
nobody’s hurt, and he turns to his mom, and I stand there,
not knowing what else to do, and only weeks later,
after he and I drive out to the wrecking yard,
one last check to clean out the glove box, looking for keys,
only then do I try to say something dad-like and wise, a mystery
about the size of a football, something I could pass along
as we followed the watchman in his little golf cart
through rows of unlucky cars. I say that perhaps
the best we can do is to better name the accident we never
quite see coming. I quote the boxer: “Everybody’s got a plan
till they get punched.” I say the cars remind me
of a drive-in theater, and we’re all just watching
the movie of the present day. “What do you think?” I ask.
And he, my son the unexpected, the one I think will go
much further than I will toward some unknown destination,
tells me, “No, these cars are more like snapshots.”
“Of what?” I ask. “Of fear,” he says.


Richard Cole has published two books of poetry: The Glass Children (The University of Georgia Press) and Success Stories (Limestone Books). He is also the author of a memoir, Catholic by Choice (Loyola Press). His poems and essays have been published in The New Yorker, Poetry, Hudson Review, Sun Magazine, Barrow Street, Diode, Denver Quarterly, Ruminate, Dappled Things, Image Journal, and various anthologies. Honors include an NEA fellowship and a Bush Foundation grant. Cole works as a freelance business writer in Austin, Texas. More at