This poem was inspired by prompts from marina_bonomi and my_partner_doug who got to talking about sudden deaths and stuck souls. To convey a sense of the afterlife as experienced by such a soul, I used the extended metaphor of a stranded motorist -- a familiar experience for many folks that should counterbalance the mysterious subject. This poem was sponsored by marina_bonomi.
A sudden unexpected death
is like a breakdown:
you were going somewhere
and then without any warning
The car coughs black smoke,
skids to a stop and lodges
firmly in a snowdrift.
The road is empty
but for the blowing snow,
and now that the heater has conked out
you abruptly become aware
of just how cold it has been all along.
You hate the idea of waiting.
Your fingers fiddle with the door handle,
but you're not dressed for this weather
and you remember the safety rule:
In case of emergency, remain with your vehicle.
So you wait, and you hate it,
and there's nothing going on,
and the windows slowly frost over.
The wind and the snow whisper softly outside,
and gradually your chattering mind quiets itself
as you realize that you're never going to reach your destination,
that you'll be spending the night somewhere else after all.
That's all right, you think to yourself,
the storm cooling the first burn of frustration.
There are other places you can be.
Then, just as suddenly as the breakdown itself,
there comes a loud rapping at the window.
Hastily you roll it down, and there is a grinning towtruck driver
with a truck already backed into position, its rotating lights
splashing the frozen landscape with flashes of warm gold.
You ride to the nearest town in the toasty cab of that truck,
and then there is heat and light and cocoa and bed
and you don't mind so much when you find out
that your car is totalled on account of a seized engine
because you are safe here
and that's all that matters.