[SoF:] What’s True

God waited for Abraham’s arm to be actually starting down, the biceps fully tensed.

Nothing short would do; in extremity, we learn what’s true.

With a good job, a good marriage, a fine son, I had everything one could expect.

And yet there was a lingering dissatisfaction; a malaise.

It seemed, deep down, that I didn’t really feel or believe in anything.

On Saturday morning, August 11, 1990, my three-year-old son and I rounded the corner at the south end of the block where we live.  We were out for a walk.  (He had been born through in-vitro fertilization, everything else had failed — including several previous in-vitro attempts.)  He was riding his tricycle — it’s amazing how fast a three-year-old can go on a tricycle with big wheels. . . .  The house next to the corner had tall bushes growing right out to the sidewalk.  As we passed the house, my son speeded up.  My attention was diverted to men working across the street trimming trees.  Their chainsaws drowned out the sound of a car backing out of the driveway next to the house with the bushes.  The car was moving slowly and I can see in the slowest of slow motion — I screamed, but I’m not sure just when (there’s no sound track to this movie) — the car backing into the left handlebar of the tricycle, tilting it over to the right, my son breaking his fall with his right hand.   (As low to the ground as he and the tricycle were, they could not be visible in the driver’s rearview mirror at this point.)  And, then, the car stopping.  Did the car stop because of my scream?  Or had the old man driving the car seen my son at the last second before he disappeared behind the car?


I learned instantly with the terrible weight of that tire inches from my son’s head,

that I wanted with a giant, horrible wanting for this boy to grow up healthy

and to have children of his own who would, in turn, have children of their own,

and that having my wife hate me for losing him would be unbearable.

All the unfairnesses I had suffered in life — ALL of them —

instantly became meaningless. Everything was clear.

This is what I wanted; this is what I believed.


Hear Jerry/Lucius read this poem.    This poem is part of the Scraps of Faith collection of poems.

Keywords:  near-death of son, automobile, children, fatherhood, meaning of life, belief