Death on the highway

Turkey Buzzards
Photo credit by Flickr user Trossle

Today I killed a giant black bird.
At least I think I did…
Because when a giant black bird that is one minute part of a flock
Pecking at carrion on the shoulder of the highway,
The next minute startles as your car approaches,
Flying backwards, then up and toward you,
Its flapping wings filling your windscreen,
Then dipping down and out of sight
Just as you feel the sickening thud

The vibration of the wheel in your white-knuckled fists,
Into your wrists, your shoulders, through your heart and into your chest
Where your breath catches and holds—
Then rushes forth in a sound you do not recognize

When it is early morning, just outside of Jackson,
Three hours gone from Memphis where yesterday you buried your aunt—
Your favorite, once the wife of your father’s brother,
Both siblings so long gone that your aunt’s and your mother’s second spouses have,
For nearly a generation, laid claim to family fealty without a drop of common blood—
And three hours still to go before you are home…
You do not stop to learn if you killed the bird that feasts on death

But as you speed away, velocity unbroken by the smash of flesh on fender,
Your eyes dart to the rearview mirror
Where you watch black wings flutter in the grass
As the horde staggers to the corpse beside the hot highway.

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