Traffic on the Anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s Death

Collection: September 2016 (New Beginnings)
Author: Greg Schreur, Grand Rapids, MI
How the piece relates to the theme of the month: “Honestly, it doesn’t. Or if it does, it does only through stretch of imagination. If it fits another theme and you can see fit to use it, I would be honored to be a small part of the wonderful thing you are doing. I welcome any feedback or suggestions. Blessings to you and your work.”

“Traffic on the Anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s Death”

On the anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s death,

my morning commute was halted by traffic

two separate accidents, miles ahead, the cause of all

these brake lights staring back at me.

On the eve of the anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s death,

a young man I knew only through others’ knowledge of him

was killed when a pole he was holding touched a power wire

and ground stake, and another young man, a student at my

daughter’s school, heard that his mother—who had been sick

for some time—had just days to live.

On the anniversary of Anne Bradstreet’s last day of life

(although we didn’t know it at the time, of course)

my students discussed one of her poems, and because I want them

to see or to search for, to have eyes and ears for,

connections where connections seem unlikely or impossible,

where any type of connection or understanding would seem like a miracle,

I paired the poem with a Facebook post by Kobe Bryant, who had

just hours before writing, torn his Achilles tendon.

“The anger is rage,” he wrote, and we laughed, but still

he wrote with raw emotion—emotions that in Bradstreet’s poem were

more veiled by her formal style and thee’s and thou’s: a student,

whose name I had been mispronouncing the first few days of class,

observed that Bradstreet’s emotions were discernable through

what she wrote about, what she focused on in each line of verse.

“Is that true in Kobe’s Facebook post?” I asked.

They agreed it was. “Is it true of us?” They nodded.

So the next morning, 344 years after Bradstreet died, months from

Kobe Bryant’s retirement, I had this staring contest with brake lights.

But if I refocused, looked past the miles of brake lights, up

ahead to the two accidents that were the cause of all this,

something happened inside me that I can only adequately describe

as a miracle: if I stopped using my eyes, I could look even further ahead,

past the accidents, past sudden and slow deaths,

past all the chaos and stop of the here and now to a

future with far kinder lights.