Young men and cars offer
the joy of coming of age
with the risks of tragedy.
There is the monstrous injustice
of the death, banal statistical
references, and life goes on.
And the loss goes on. It does not end.
Prayer and afterlife, meaning beyond
anything a parent, or loved one,
or considerate passerby, can suggest
have their value, and comfort.
See the pain in a different way,
with a deeper understanding,
within the heritage of experience
each soul builds as life goes on.
Fine. Even helpful. The loss remains.
It is immutable, irreconcilable,
full of a despair suffering a
random, heartless god, or none,
nothing, just the void of death.
But it is the loss that is the void,
not the death; courage can come
from it, cultivated in memory
or little rituals of remembrance
as a survivor’s stiff duty, possible
by the edge of love that is not
some stepchild of despair,
that is a force of its own.
As to the young man who lived,
the car destroyed, walking away
with barely a scratch, another
car, another year, another day;
there is no answer to that, either,
only the great, inexplicable
mercy of a second chance.
— This poem appears in the May 19, 2014, issue of National Review.