Blood on the Highway

put your nose down to the macadam
sniff scared rabbits, bits of fur flying
a crushed look in their eyes, the pink
smudge wearing away for months

now notice the larger red stain of deer
leaping at dusk over the car’s hood
dashed down in a fountain of blood
lying bloated on the roadside for days

on a smooth cool slab of granite green
jungle pushes against the sacrificial goat
cut at dawn, blood collected in a clay
bowl to pour out to the red-tongued gods

another highway peopled by skeletons
of wild animals to appease the thirsty
lords, a vehicle of obeisance carved
out of soft throats and swollen bellies

the blood of red sunset reflecting off
the wet pavement after rain as trucks
blow past intent on mysterious journeys
that ignore the wishes of waiting mice

and raccoons which attempt the crossing
of hot pavement as if at a desert border
littered with empty water bottles, lives
abandoned in slivers on the deadly cholla

sometimes rain falls to wash the roadway
of fluttering feathers lying detached
a gull’s remains, severed foot, unknown
smear of soft parts dragged long yards

lean down and smell the warm carcass
bloody splashes of sacrificed lives lost
on the ribbons of cement, steel bridges
glowing orange before the night masks

death, this death on the highway visible
tonight under the moon, fresh blood
blooming like scarlet fireworks bursting,
like the rabbit exploding into the air.

***

cows as incidental anomalies

on a straight road, the flat horizon
always receding, fences and power
poles run alongside like stations
of emptiness, broken sometimes
by a dirt track through the barbed wire
dust circles in heat eddies
empty land stretches away for miles

those small creatures far off
become mere accidental features
on the landscape as you drive,
measuring distance by the passage
of each rise and dip, distant cows
like insignificant bits of dirt you could
brush off the bare earth with a swipe
leaving sage and boulders to dominate

***

Emily Strauss has an M.A. in English, but is self-taught in poetry, which she has written since college. Over 500 of her poems appear in a wide variety of online venues and in anthologies, in the U.S. and abroad. She is a Best of the Net and twice a Pushcart nominee. The natural world of the American West is generally her framework; she also considers the narratives of people and places around her. She is a retired teacher living in Oregon.