Climbing into the Ambulance at Midnight with My Teen-aged Son,
what strikes me first is the missing shoe, then the hole
in the big toe of the black sock on his foot poking out
from beneath the blanket at the end of the gurney,
the other clad in one checkered Van (can I even
make it plural, Vans, when one is missing?) my mind
zeroing in on the singular detail before I can take
the rest in. Meanwhile, in a parallel scene just feet away,
my teen’s best friend also lies on a gurney, his own
mother hovering. Less than an hour since both boys
were pushed out of the moving car reeking of
Jägermeister, after which she called 911, then me.
It’ll be hours before I notice his glasses are also missing.
Against the glow of the ambulance, his lanky frame,
mouth agape, eyes closed. (Is he asleep? Is he dreaming?)
Slurry of green bile and god-knows-what-else
slicks his shirt. Later in the ER, our sons lie
in twin gurneys while we mothers wait.
Cati Porter’s most recent poetry collections are Novel and The Body at a Loss. Her latest collection, small mammals, is forthcoming from Mayapple Press in 2023. Her poems can be found in Rattle, VerseDaily, Terrain, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, and elsewhere. She is founder and editor of the long-running Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry and is executive director of Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit and publisher. She lives with her family in Inland Southern California. Find her on the web at www.catiporter.com