Mountain Road at Night

People say it’s best to avoid the news these days,
But when I’m driving alone at night
Even voices repeating catastrophe
Are still voices, still something comforting
In the disembodied voice of a stranger,
Saying terrible things.

I’m moving through a country
Where people feel differently about deer –
On many a night someone driving like me
Then a furred flash on asphalt, leap and a bound,
Car swerve screaming,
Death as no clever conspiracy,
Just confusion with a hammering heart.

The tribe of trees my car lights cannot see beyond –
Under rolling tires a network of gnarled nerves
Reaching under the asphalt, sharing
Food, water, warnings, dark intelligence
Serving the deer in secret.

The familiar madness flows through my speakers,
No deciphered code from the roots beneath.
Fear, born of the hope I’ll know the next bend
But I don’t, yet the hope continues, is necessary
For the fear to break surface, stretch in bloom –
Hope and the killing of hope, over and over,
Compost turning itself in shadows,
All my phobias sharpening like claws,
Beyond this human lullaby
Into the wild-eyed snorting, leaping into night.

(First published in Bowery Gothic No. 8, Summer 2023 – thanks to the editors)

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