Lost in thoughts of my to-do list
and creeping along in stop-and-go traffic,
I hit my brakes late
and slam into the car in front of me.

I draw in a sharp breath
and motion for the other driver to pull over.
We get out of our cars
and stand by the side of the road,
squinting in the bright sun
as we trade insurance information.

The damage is minor
and no one hurt, but I'm rattled
and apologetic;
he is irritated and insists
on filing a police report.

The officer arrives.
As she writes on her notepad
I look down at the smattering of squashed hotsauce packets
littering the roadside,
prod them with the toe of my boot.
I silently curse my poor timing,
wishing I had taken a different way home
wishing I hadn't looked down.
Wishing it all had been otherwise.

Then I think of Jane Kenyon's poem,

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
--and remind myself that I have a bad habit
of reading too much cosmic significance
into life's fender-benders:
Is it because I tried to get out of jury duty?
Is God, or the universe, trying to apprehend me
for something I've done
or left undone?
Yes, I could have avoided the accident
but I didn't
and it could have been worse.
I'm walking away from this collision
as is the man in the other car
and it might have been otherwise.