If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father
   had broken a leg parachuting into Provence
to join the resistance in the final stage of the war
   and so had been killed there as the Germans were moving north
out of Italy and if the friend who was with him
   as he was dying had not had an elder brother
who also died young quite differently in peacetime
   leaving two children one of them with bad health
who had been kept out of school for a whole year by an illness
   and if I had written anything else at the top
of the examination form where it said college
   of your choice or if the questions that day had been
put differently and if a young woman in Kittanning
   had not taught my father to drive at the age of twenty
so that he got the job with the pastor of the big church
   in Pittsburgh where my mother was working and if
my mother had not lost both parents when she was a child
   so that she had to go to her grandmother’s in Pittsburgh
I would not have found myself on an iron cot
   with my head by the fireplace of a stone farmhouse
that had stood empty since some time before I was born
   I would not have travelled so far to lie shivering
with fever though I was wrapped in everything in the house
   nor have watched the unctuous doctor hold up his needle
at the window in the rain light of October
   I would not have seen through the cracked pane the darkening
valley and the river sliding past the amber mountains
   nor have wakened hearing plums fall in the small hour
thinking I knew where I was as I heard them fall

This Issue

April 22, 1993