Beyond

Jamie McKendrick

I spent all morning in the cafe talking
to a man who’d just survived a car crash.
They’d cut him out of the wreck, his legs crushed
– and still not cured – his chest a map of some
forsaken country no one could live in,
as seen from the air, which was where he was then,
or felt himself to be – looking down on his own
body picked out in a ring of light though at first at least
there was no actual light there, only a dark road.
He tried to explain to me that feeling of peace
he’d had, that even now hadn’t deserted him,
but did the moment when he chose (it seems a choice
was offered him) to enter his body again,
by this time in an ambulance. He became his pain,
the pain an entire horizon of hot wire,
till the paramedics pumped him full of morphine.

I told him about your accident, Lee,
the speed you were going, not forty miles per hour,
the road, the drystone wall, the service station
forecourt opposite, the date, the cloudless sky,
how the pheasant flew up from the uncut verge
into your visor or chest, as if I’d seen it,
as if I’d seen it from above or from beyond.
I listed your injuries and mentioned the man
who’d put your wristwatch, still ticking, inside
your ribbed black glove, wrapped you in a plaid rug
and dialled for help on his mobile while he kept
hold of your hand ... I wanted to hear
how beyond the moment that has stained our lives
and left some part of us stranded on that verge,
beyond the fateful shiny insect torso of the bike
you’d been lifted up into what the man described.