I had thought the birds, at least,
were safe, until, in Ohio,
my father nailed a pheasant.
She bounced across the windshield
like a feathered basketball.
The only time I ever heard him swear
was when, in Indiana, a cow
leapt out of the fog tail-first,
took out a headlight
and left a smear of brown
the length of our '51 Fairlane.
The only man in the world
to run down a fox with a Ford!

(Notice we don't count cats,
woodchucks or porcupines —
ordinary fauna-fare —
in this carnival of roadkill
tossed over the shoulder of life.)
Giving the horse his head,
my mother called it,
the way nothing dared stand in the way —
nor animal nor hunger nor having to pee.

I spent my summers in the back of a car
racing across America, careening
down pavements of unlimited access,
swerving from mammal to mammal
in one gut-wrenching alley-oop after another.
So I threw up in Wahoo, Nebraska —
crouched on the curb outside a diner
and left lunch, as my brother said.
Then I got to sit up front where things
were quick and bright and chancy.

Eventually, he'd have to turn in:
the Bide-a-Wee Motel, perhaps — Vacancy,
4 Bucks a Night — where I'd fall asleep
and dream of bears lining the road —
alive, hungry, waiting.

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