One night coming home from the agency
after the customary stop at the bar 
for his vodka martini, my dad wrapped the T-
bird around a tree, an oak 
rising next to the winding road,
a creek whispering in the shadows. 
Broke both legs at the knees, 
four cracked ribs, a deep gash 
across his forehead. 
It’ll be a miracle if he walks again
the doctors said, but he willed himself 
back on those busted stems, cantankerous hinges 
the rest of his days.

I think of him as I drive the same road, 
how I’m falling short of the man I could be,
reeling from rather than rising above 
my own poor decisions.
The tree is fuller than it would have been,
no visible signs of a scar, no shard
of bark out of place.

Firemen pulled him out of the wreck,
he balanced on those shredded knees,
put his suit jacket on over a dress shirt 
splotched like a red Rorschach,
and said, I’m going home to my wife and kids, 
words that rose up off the road,
stumbled through the shattered night,
into the mist of unattainable legend.