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To The Young Man Who Cried Out “What Were You Thinking?” When I Backed Into His Car  

We all have such a lot on our minds these days.

“Reality is made up of circles but we see straight lines.”                                       Peter Senge

TO THE YOUNG MAN WHO CRIED OUT “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?” WHEN I BACKED INTO HIS CAR                                                                            

Lynne Knight

I was thinking No. No, oh no. Not one more thing.

I was thinking my mother, who sat rigid

in the passenger seat crying, How terrible!

as if we had hit a child not your front bumper,

would drive me mad, and then there would be

two of us mad, mother and daughter, and things

would be easier, they said things would be easier

once she went to the other side, into complete total

madness. I was thinking how young you looked,

how impossibly young, and trying to remember

myself young, my body, my voice, almost another

person, and I wanted to weep for all I had let

come and go so casually, lovers, cities, flowers,

and then I was thinking You little shit for the way

you stood outside my window with your superior air

as if I were a stupid old woman with a stupid old woman

beside her, stood shouting What were you thinking?

as if I were incapable of thought, as I nearly was,

exhausted as I’d become tending my mother,

whom I had just taken to the third doctor in so many

days, and you shouting your rhetorical question

then asking to see my license, your li-cense, slowly,

as if I would not understand the word, and the lover

who made me feel as if I never knew anything

appeared then, stepped right into your body saying

What were you thinking? after I had told him, sobbed

to him, that I thought he was, I thought he was,

I thought we would—and then my mother began

to cry, as if she had stepped into my body, only years

before, or was it after, and suddenly I saw the whole

human drama writ plain, a phrase I felt I had never

understood until then, an October afternoon in Berkeley,

California, warm, warm, two vehicles stopped in

heavy traffic on campus, a woman deciding to make way

for a car trying to cross Gayley, act of random kindness

she thought might bring her luck then immediately—

right before impact—knew would be bad luck,

if it came, being so impure in its motive,

and then the unraveling of the beautiful afternoon

into anger and distress that would pass unnoticed

by most of the world, would soon be forgotten by those

witnessing the event, and eventually those experiencing it

while the sun went on lowering itself toward the bay

and ginkgo trees shook their gold leaves loose

until a coed on the way home from class, unaware

a car had backed into another car, unaware of traffic,

stopped to watch the shower of gingko, thought of Zeus

descending on the sleeping Danaë in a shower of gold,

and smiled over all her own lover would do

in the bright timeless stasis before traffic resumed.

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