At First, and Then

There are stories others tell 
of near-death experiences: 
walking away from a car 

crumpled like foil 
at the edge of a highway 
just before a sheet of flame 

split the air; surviving
a knife that cut clean through
so as to miss the stomach

or spleen. Delirious with fever 
and shaking with chills, seizing, 
passing out, slipping into 

a coma; then after fourteen days, 
returned from the other side as simply 
as opening the eyes and asking  

the time. I want to know how they 
did it, what they saw going away and 
coming back— What kinds of clouds 

there were, and were they lit from 
inside. How thick the traffic was; 
if there was a light at which they

looked out and recognized the people
in the next car; if a sign said stop,
this was as far as they could go.

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