Fall 2009 / Issues / Poetry 2009 / Volume 40

Halfway Between — Dan Pette

Halfway between Chicago and the coast,

somewhere east of Laramie,

I splayed an animal beneath the wheels

at eighty miles per hour early on a starless August night.

There was the thunk of it, the splat — 

and still the highway unwound through the blackened west.

The gospelers from radio Del Rio scarcely paused

in paving their highway to the heavens,

the odometer clicked away the hours and miles…

A rabbit? Coyote? Abandoned cat?

Impossible to tell. I cursed silently, needlessly…

and stopped, and hour later, in Green River —

hard by the steamy railroad yards:

$10 for a room, communal John just down the hall;

found a dive around the corner, nursed a drink or two,

struck up a conversation, like a spurting match,

with a woman slipping down the dark side of adolescent dreams;

returned to my room where,

in the neon-washed gloom, she bared

her baby’s body and took me, kneeling, twisxt her thights,

and the iron bedstead rattled blankly

toward the close. The silence was complete.

Rewarded, she quickly took her leave…

I stood at the window, smoked a cigarette,

watched the tufts of smoke and steam

rise like incense from the yards,

felt the shudder of the engines through the wafer-thin walls,

felt drained, empty, rootless; and that sonorous music of the wheels

stayed fast in my reckless mind throughout the gravid night.

But…oh…that animal became a bobcat

in my dreams, and with unleavened joy I watched

the sunrise peel the walls clean and burn the curtains through.

Utah was next.

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