Route 83

That day in February
skiing cross-country
Suicide Bowl  all morning  early
afternoon in the glorious geography of risk
sun shattered with pines  thick
by the trail and I barely twenty  followed
my teacher and all the others  learning
to lay down tracks  snow-gold
light turned winter red  I bled
through cramps and blood
first of the day’s surprises
back to the dorm  I thought
half an hour drive  shower and change—

then  I turned left at the blinking
yellow  and the skis flew past my head
windows diamonded  Fiesta back seat
snug-up against my gearshift  but I
got out.  And the old man said
You’d better call
to the gas station on the corner

so I did  and he was gone  cops
shook their heads
We’re taking you
to the hospital
  But I’m fine  I said
I just need to shower  and they said
You don’t even know what hurts
car totaled  and I felt such shame
cramps and blood  Later

they find pieces of my car in the cracked grill
of the old man’s pickup truck parked
in front of Toivo’s Bar  but I was
the college student out-of-towner
and he the town drunk
Sally’s father
they said  Then a hearty laughing
orthopedic surgeon told me my neck
would be a problem the rest of my life
but my boyfriend of a month nursed me
carried plates of pork chops and eggs up
to me in his squeaky-spring bed
and how to make love in a brace
was my earliest and first  the next year we
married  thirty-some years ago  and I still
don’t  wonder what  if

Mary Buchinger is the author of three collections of poetry: e i n f ü h l u n g/in feeling (2018), Aerialist (2015) and Roomful of Sparrows (2008). She is President of the New England Poetry Club and Professor of English and communication studies at MCPHS University in Boston. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Diagram, Gargoyle, Nimrod, PANK, Salamander, Slice Magazine, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere; her website is