These Accidents

We've taken a wrong turn somewhere
and now we are two couples in one car,
late to a Christmas party, navigating
a neighborhood where lane blends
into lane, where houses pose
on well-scaped yards, placed precisely
as bells of confectioner's sugar
on a cake. One of us is reading
the useless directions, another
willing her cell phone to work
while the driver asks again,
"Weren't we just here?" and then
we are all laughing into
the valley of our helplessness,
which opens, as all things have
and will, as byproduct of
the largest accident of all,
the shotgun blast of exploding matter
that became the universe, its billions
of bits of debris spread
like pollen to take any root
it could find, any form
that could be managed, accident
upon accident, strands of being
woven and rewoven to become
the single end we are brought to,
realm where people are placed
as randomly as stars, and, like stars,
joined in formations only named
after finding their arrangements.
Nothing stirs on this street
whose name might as well be the name
of the last street; no cars move,
no doors swing open or sigh shut,
there is nothing to betray
the expensive serenity
of this community, where
our friends had to ask permission
to build a dog pen, where
the only visible motion is
the vine-pulse of holiday lights,
each house a well-designed outpost
of cheer, its display engineered
to demonstrate a sober balance
between exuberance and good taste,
the icy light of each façade
making it a bit more difficult
to dream what anger or passions
once lived or might live still
inside the blind wall of curtains.
Even now a furious hand
might tip the shaking wine bottle
a splash too long or pull back
the shade to see who passes.
A teenager is breathing through
the hours until the house falls
into sleep, and she can
slip out the back door, into
the schemes and manipulations
these streets were designed
to be a quiet haven from.
No matter how far we drive,
how lost we get, we carry
the map of insufferable humanity,
the will to survive no matter
the cost. So it was when
three mythical kings crossed
a cold desert, guided by
the arm of an angel pointing them
toward a star, and so it is
now as we, guided by no star,
no part of heaven,
only the scribbled code of street names,
white stare of headlights
casting their glaze over signs
that say nothing of the direction
we should travel, we four
still not certain if we have
grown up, who have come this far
embracing the misdirection that has
all our lives come like solar wind
to take us to towns and jobs
we never conceived in the snugs
of childhood. Those particles,
fragments of solar debris,
had to land somewhere, had to bind
to one another till they gained
a form and found a language
and creed they could share, a way
to give names to all that lay
around them, a way to rescue
what they saw from the distant
and anonymous gravities
we are spun out of, white
and faceless as snow. If snow came now
to cover these streets named for
movie stars and British royalty,
we could stop bickering about
whether King Arthur crosses Chaplin
or Fairbanks intersects Queen Mary,
but no snow is forecast. The sky remains
empty but for the cold fire
of stars, distant as the ember
of candle flame that glows
a moment in the body
of the wick after the flame
is snuffed, determined to hang on.
The knack for survival
that commands us to turn
to one another, to seize hands
and refuse against all reason
to let go, must be the instinct
allowing us laughter
as we follow swept curbs past
thin pines and boxwood hedges,
the skeletons of nameless trees.
Then a street name someone thinks
she recognizes, a turn, and we are
coming to our destination
from the wrong direction
the way we have arrived
at so many things, things
we aren't thinking about now
as we climb from the car
and hurry to the celebration,
breath rising from our bodies
like ribbons on small gifts
we open and forget, already
reaching for the next one.