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Lay for the Day
13th September

1899: Henry Bliss stepped off a street car at Central Park West and 74th Street in New York City, and into the path of an approaching horseless carriage driven by one Arthur Smith. Mr Bliss subsequently died of the injuries he sustained, the first North American fatality in a motoring accident. (The first person in the world to die in a car crash was Mr Henry Lindfield, who lost control of his vehicle while driving from London to Brighton in February 1898.) In the following century, cars would claim an estimated twenty million lives.


A head of long
hair’s no helmet…
Your ruling star
like a comet,

bright tress flaring,
was seen awhile
rounding the sun,
then took the trail

back beyond sight,
beyond Pluto,
back where you go
dark and into

the big zero.
I think you thought
we’re recurrent,
but maybe not.

Anyway your
short-lived portent
has made its mark,
though what it meant

none knew before
you passed, were passed
by a car too
nearly. Gone west.

The bike’s front wheel
a bit buckled,
that was all, but
your struck brain swelled,

you felt nothing.
And we who’d seen
felt nothing, too,
where love had been.

Death’s glancing knock’s
still unintel-
ligible to
us. Is a bell

Ask not for whom
time was at hand:
grave is her room.


John Gibbens
from Characters: You & I

The Lay Reader: an archive of the poetic calendar