Poem of the Week, by Joyce Sutphen

I was a girl, walking along the Charles River in Boston on a sunny day, no one else within earshot, when suddenly a young couple got out of a car next to me, the girl in a tight sundress and heels, big smile, radiating friendliness. Her male partner silent, a half-smile on his face.

The girl was full of questions for me. She invited me to join them for coffee, tea, lunch. It’ll be fun, she said. That big smile. But something in me was wary. Something in me knew to smile, excuse myself, and back away.

I’ve never forgotten this five-minute encounter. It’s haunted me for decades, but why? Because they were going to do something terrible to you, I woke up thinking a few weeks ago. They were going to do something indescribably awful, and somehow you knew it.

Last week some friends and I were talking about all the narrow escapes in our lives, all the twists and turns of fate that somehow we’d eluded. Do you think life is just a never-ending series of lucky misses? one of them asked.

My Luck, by Joyce Sutphen

When I was five, my father,
who loved me, ran me over
with a medium-sized farm tractor.

I was lucky though; I tripped
and slipped into a small depression,
which caused the wheels to tread

lightly on my leg, which had already
been broken (when I was three)
by a big dog, who liked to play rough,

and when I was nine, I fell
from the second-floor balcony
onto the cement by the back steps,

and as I went down I saw my life go by
and thought: “This is exactly how
Wiley Coyote feels, every time!”

Luckily, I mostly landed on my feet,
and only had to go on crutches
for a few months in the fifth grade—

and shortly after that, my father,
against his better judgment,
bought the horse I’d wanted for so long.

All the rest of my luck has to do
with highways and ice—things that
could have happened, but didn’t.

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