What we remember most
was never real:
there was never a white van
but we feared it. Yes, he was
shooting, but no van, and
it wasn’t white, why
did we say otherwise?
You had to factor it
in, avoid places
by the interstate
within eyesight
of a clump of trees.
We had stopped
at that exit
before; he used the payphone
right by our house.
There was no
white van rolling slowly
down our street; we got up
and went inside. We couldn’t
go jogging. Everything
suddenly different: school
cancelled–wouldn’t a group
of children, walking in line
be perfect? He had never
been downtown so we went
to the park in the river,
police there, someone had seen
the van on the hill, a good
spot for it. We went
to the diner that resembled
a diner from the 50’s, or from
a movie about the 50’s:
on the television
a helicopter spins above
a white van, back road
past Rappahannock,
the helicopter is saying
pull over and cops swarm,
but he’s a house painter,
it turned out there wasn’t
a white van, so why
did we invent one? What did it do
for us? Gas stations hung blue tarps
like curtains
so no one could see you
standing there, no one
would shoot. Part of history
now, the imaginary
white van more known
than the real gray sedan.
When we’ve died
and this is a historic site
how will they erect the marker?
When we remember these days
with diorama
what will they include
as prop? Put a tree
standing in for death.
Tilt the whole scene
to the dark. Make each leaf
from a shard of stained glass.
Put a man speaking
to an officer, a man
who wants to be part
of it, pushes
his fingers through his hair.
A man remembering
clearly, saying yes
I am sure, and an officer there
taking down in a pad
every word.

Craig Beaven

CRAIG BEAVEN has poems out now or forthcoming in Carolina Quarterly, Third Coast, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, and others. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Latest posts by Craig Beaven (see all)