Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HIGHWAY DEATH TOLL, by KAREN SWENSON



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE HIGHWAY DEATH TOLL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The highway's edge / of unmalicious deaths
Last Line: If I'd turned it off before I might have heard.
Subject(s): Death; Driving & Drivers; Fathers; Popes; Dead, The; Papacy


The highway's edge
of unmalicious deaths
plays counterpoint
against the radio's theme.
In Utah and Nevada,
rabbits' white fur sloughs off the pavement
like the nap of cheap velvet
while I am told Bob Marley's head
is pillowed by his dreadlocks'
tightly harrowed rows.

Great white pillars of plain
bereft of roof -
the columns of grain elevators shade
an owl which,
blood glued to the pavement,
waves one wing
to passing cars
containing the report,
indifferent as the trapped fly's buzzing voice,
that the Pope's been shot
while blessing multitudes.

I did not take personally
the legs of a Pennsylvania deer
that, stiff as fence posts,
staked out the belly
pregnant with death's gases
until, my radio off and parked in Brooklyn,
a neighbor leaned into the car
to announce my father's death,
and I thought perhaps
if I'd turned it off before I might have heard.





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