Bill Stratton

What Almost Killed You
April 20, 2022 Stratton Bill

What Almost Killed You



Hello, my name is a long drive home from the bar
after I had been drinking too much, that bar way out
near the dump with no houses around just trees, rocks,
the pavement ending in a wide parking lot and on all sides
ghosts from an Adirondack mine–where I broke up a fight
between brothers in the parking lot and later found them
bloodied on the floor, each holding a knife and by god
I said I can’t believe they haven’t killed each other, the whole
time a man from Germany there on a working vacation
was leaning over and taking pictures, really just snapping
away while the two of them wrestled and grunted and let
themselves leak out on the floor, their wives screaming
goddamnit Jimmy they’re never going to let us back in 
here–that bar, but not that night, another night, a rough
night when I was torn up inside, lovesick, on the phone
in the parking lot and Dusty said she’s got her fingers
all twisted up in your guts and maybe she did, but I did
my damndest to drown those digits in scotch and then
it was the end of the night and suddenly I remembered
that the beat-up Buick out front was mine and no one
was left to lean on except myself, or the law, and I
didn’t fancy sleeping one off in a north country cell
so I wove my way across the back roads, the dirt
and gravel roads, the thin veins of a whole county
given up for dead unless you’re a local and know
the ways of them, and I did, and it was about halfway
when I realized I really ought not to be behind the wheel
but it was too late, and it was too late for the deer
as well, having seen my headlights and bolted for the brush.
I clipped her, American steel barely slowing but I knew
her legs were gone the second it happened and then
there was a tree right out of nowhere and somehow
I wound up facing the wrong way but whole, and breathing
hard at the windshield, and staring down the line of my
headlights as they brushed the top of the tall grass and petered
out into nothing at the feet of a mountain, though
to this day I couldn’t tell you which one, only that
the next morning and really a fair number of mornings
since then, I’ve  been thinking about that doe, and how
she must have crawled out to some hollow and lay
down to watch her last sunrise as some shit-lucky kid
slept off the remnants of her life.

William Stratton lives near Essex, Vermont, in a very old house with two very young children and a (hopefully) immortal wife. He mostly writes in his “free” time, which consists of the 45 minutes during naptime or in between classes at either SUNY Plattsburgh, where he teaches writing, or Champlain College, where he teaches whatever classes are needed. He serves as editor at The Saranac Review, and his work has so far been nominated six times for the pushcart prize. His first full length collection of poetry, Under The Water Was Stone  (published May of 2014) has been nominated for the Kate Tufts Discovery award and the Eugene Paul Nassar Award. His second book These Things Too Have Shape was released in January of 2016. He has poetry published or forthcoming in: FIELD, Sugar House Review, Spillway, The North American Review,  DMQ, Louisiana Literature, Connotation Press, Canary, and others.