Come to Harm

A weekly poem, read by the author.
May 31 2000 3:00 AM

Come to Harm

We were driving from one state to another, one house
to a new one—
                        my father already there,
working, waiting for us,
and we'd been singing hymns against sleep,
                                                                  hymns
soaring with our joy at passing on
to glory,
              where all our loss would turn to gain,
every wound
                     would heal, and in the silence
between one song and the choosing of the next
my mother said
                         on the day her father died
she knew,
                 knew before the phone had rung,
he'd come to harm. "Come to harm," she said
as if Death had
                        enticed him. As if
he had returned to drinking and run off
with Death's
                    hootchie-cootchie girl, Death's
                                                                   crude seducer.
My hair prickled. True tales
                                           of the supernatural!
How could I tell this story to new friends,
I wondered,
                    and make them shudder. Or failing that,
how could I make them laugh, moving—flipped penny—
from
         "There's a world beyond this world"
to "My mother is a silly woman"—and back again.
We sang all night.
                            She told her sacred story.
I slept. She drove. She died. I wept. We laughed.
I understand her story isn't mine.
There may
                 be another world. There will
                                                             be laughter. 

Andrew Hudgins' most recent book is Shut Up, You're Fine: Poems for Very, Very Bad Children. His new book American Rendering: New and Selected Poems is due out in April.  He teaches at the Ohio State University.