There is a coyote smeared across the road;
patchy fur in a heap,
blood pools around mangled corpse.
This is on a highway in Texas.
The truck is on its side
three miles from McLean.
I think of the song,
Bye, bye Miss American Pie
drove my Chevy to the levy
but the levy was dry
and them good old boys
drinking whiskey and rye…
The man is thrown at least 10ft,
but it may be farther.
Red horse blanket,
a scattering of clothes from spilt suitcase,
truck stop napkins dancing by the roadside.
There are no paramedics,
just a couple of ER rerun
med degrees holding the body straight.
Two men beat CPR on his bare
chest curled with wiry grey.
But the air is heavy,
thick with freshly departed soul.
As I drive through the meager parade
of on lookers, the world stills.
The flush of the wind flattens,
the rattle of the engine mutes,
bystanders mouths move soundless,
and the song chanting in my mind
singing this will be the day that I die,
this will be the day that I die…
In a moment of desperation
on the side of the highway in
the middle of nowhere, TX,
no one is breathing.
Not the male body sprawled to the ground
or the people hovering near him,
not the young girl running
or the child hugging his mother’s leg.
No one is breathing.
It is after that I begin to notice
the deer heaped in the median,
necks twisted and torsos thick with bloat,
hooves kicking skyward.
I count three within the five miles
of the crash site.
It is then I see the coyote.
His head thrown back,
patches of brown fur slaughtered red,
white teeth and bone ground to asphalt.
There is a collective understanding
when an innocent death is witnessed.
A universal helplessness
that spreads thick grease and holds
us captive and silent.
There is no dignity in road kill,
There is no beauty in crushed mandible,
no glory in stained hide or shattered hipbone.
It is a whimper,
not a snarl.
It is a turned over pick up,
It is a bent mile marker
and missing reflectors.
Sometimes it’s indiscernible;
all you see is grass and sky and road,
a blind spot on a highway in Texas,
a broken man.
“Coyote” is previously published in September (2014) and as a performance on Youtube from the 2013 ABQ Grand Slam.
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