Deliver Me From Nowhere.
The Irish scientist Mary Ward was the first recorded automobile fatality, when she was killed by her cousin’s steam car on the 31st of August 1869.
Some internal radar takes over
and guides you home as the senses
are both dulled and reel with the drink.
You follow the white line
muttering obscenities to yourself,
staggering like a silent movie drunk.
The street lights end
just before the Bishop’s Corner.
You run out of city.
And the dark fields and trees
seem to seethe and conspire
to close in
and in slurs you sing songs from Nebraska
for comfort, under your breath
until you remember
it’s all about serial killers
on starlit highways just like this one
and abruptly button your lip,
hoping the devil hasn’t
You make it to the convent by Thornhill
opposite the still, blue horses,
the blaze on their brows,
their swirling breath,
who watch you pass like
creatures from some other world.
There is an unnatural light in the distance
that you take for marshlights,
corpse candle, will o’ the wisp, gunderslislik.
As it gets closer, you’re drawn in.
Moth to the moon.
Before you work out what has happened
you already see the wreckage
scattered along the closed road,
parts of an engine,
an obliterated wing mirror, a scalped hubcap,
so far from the scene ahead
you can only imagine the forces
that could cast them here,
the aftermath of giants.
The fire brigade have erected floodlights
until it shines like a nativity scene,
a medieval passion play,
candlemass, chandliers hitched to the passing clouds,
glass glistening like Kristallnacht.
You walk through the still-stunned air,
intruding on a film set,
and they don’t seem to see you,
not the firefighters with their cutting gear still glowing,
nor the ambulance crew logging the time,
nor the police drawing rings around the shrapnel,
a scene at once sacred and profane
and mesmeric as a morning dream.
Usually the joyriders ditch the cars
before here, after the requisite
and wheel spins,
usually they drive them into the ground in circles
in thrall to Archimedes,
or just ram them into school gates,
and ignite the evidence.
This boy was born unlucky,
unlucky to find the police on his tail,
unlucky to take that route
in a bolt for the border.
You’ve seen three crashes unfold
with your own eyes
at that same cursed corner.
This is by far the worst.
The car is no longer a car anymore,
wrapped around the tree,
the dimensions are all wrong,
it is a painting by a syphilitic cubist,
it is a shape, all angles, previously unseen by nature.
Imagine the laws of motion,
the stampeding gale of horsepower,
the black Faustian magic
that causes massive deceleration,
gravity to engulf like tons of water
through a breached hull,
and the space to constrict
to embrace and conjoin
muscle, metal and bone.
There was no real way
that a man could annihilate himself
so instantly, so completely in the past,
not even a cliff or a clocktower plummet
or a horse’s kick to the chest.
Death now is instantaneous.
A fraction of a fraction of a second.
This is a form of progress
Every day after,
you walked past the scene,
the marks were there on the road,
the petrified chalk-squeal of the tyre tracks,
the gaudy yellow arrows
sprayed towards the pavement
then parallel lines churned in the grass
directly into the tree,
still standing, barely shifted off its axis,
like its rooted in the iron core of the earth.
Every day the marks on the road are there,
unnoticed by everyone bar you
then one day
they’re just gone
and this is just anywhere again.