Sometimes tragedy can strike
out of nowhere.
Everyday obligations pale
to insignificance
in the great shock;
ordinary life is put on pause,
and another life takes over.

When Patty’s twenty-year-old son
was arrested at his college
and accused of selling a drug,
he was instantly expelled
and sent off to county jail.
There was nothing to do
but be afraid of the other men
in the cell. All day all
he got to eat were
cereal, two hot dogs,
and a dry ham sandwich.

Patty, Patty’s husband,
and her son’s father
had to find him a lawyer,
attend a hearing, raise bail,
endure the pressures
of having to react
to the awful power of the law
crushing down on their son,
while trying to rescue
his future for him,
and still mad at him
for letting this happen
to all of them.

“It’s because he has red hair,”
said his mother.
“He stood out; the kids at school
made fun of him;
he couldn’t find a girlfriend.”

She dwelled on the past
as if it could make the present
make sense.

“Maybe he’s being framed.
What he’s accused of
was months ago.
I emptied his room at school;
it was absolutely clean.”
She lamented,
“He’s always trying
to help someone.
He has to learn;
he can’t save the world.”