VACATIONS WITH FATHER
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
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.