Marie Ungar




“Ma’am, your son’s been in an accident.”

                                                                                                                                                      “An accident?”


Let’s drive across the country, count the

crumpled carcasses cast to the

side of the road, cars of

mothers and fathers and lovers home

late tonight. Maybe if we slow

to gaze into each shattered

window like a drive-in movie we can pretend

none of them are yours.




“Yes Ma’am–”

“Where is he? Is he okay?”


Tell me again how it feels the instant

before collision, molecules spinning fast towards

fists fused into the dashboard, fingers fuzzy with the memory

of hands that could hold a pencil steady. The future is molded to fit your face and you can see

it coming. Don’t breathe in or the wind will be knocked from your ruptured lungs.

I’ll tell you about the piercing alarm of a 2 am phone call, the blinding

white of the ER, how it took

stretchers and sirens and one-in-three

chances for me to finally

hear from you.




“The medics are examining him now.”

“My son. Is my son okay?”


Tell me again why you left

that night, knuckles swollen from pounding

your prayers into the wall, the connection of flesh with

plaster ringing more clearly than your crackling

words hit my ear. This time don’t

leave out the parts I’ve been dissecting for

years. Forgiveness is not

forgiveness if you forget

your grievances. When your wounds heal

they will scar. When I forgive

it will be conditional. The past is painted

beneath our skin but it’s a story told

through many layers. Say there’s another

perspective lurking

between the lines, say this jagged rift is finally

converging, say tragedy will

set us straight.


“Please just tell me if my son’s okay.”

*Photograph: Jasmine Johnson