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At the in-laws’ place, seeking a diversion,
I pull my two-year-old son
down the long driveway behind me
in the dented red Radio Flyer wagon,
treasure salvaged from the dank garage.
I walk toward the condemned bridge
while he rides behind clad only in boots
and a diaper. It is evening, the height
of late Alabama summer. Amber light
bathes the road in burnished resin.
I sip from a lukewarm Yuengling.
As he rolls across the bridge
my son exclaims at the roiling water,
then at the cows on the bridge’s far side
lowering their massive shoulders in the milky dusk.
“Hi, water! Hi, cows!” They tongue their cud
and think their slow cow thoughts and watch
or do not watch us with their limpid eyes,
their tails lashing at flies. When we turn
back I see it: sun-blacked
ribcage, mess of matted fur and bone
beside the road, all but devoured by
coyote, vulture, possum, beetle, crow.
Uncivil congregants at table, their feast likely
a dog that lived its blessed southern life,
limped off to die, and did. Gave up, as we all must,
being alive, and became carrion,
from Middle English caroine, which means
dead flesh but sounds like “carry on.”
I do not show my son
the carcass, the strewn bits
of skeleton. He waves his perfect
new-boy arms. The cows chew grass. We are
the several shapes of what breathes, eats, and fades.
Whatever being alive is, it persists
in ceding and pillaging its legion forms.
Was it a shot across the bow when first
we woke? What longing flickered some
two hundred thousand years ago
to make what we call human need the name?
In the myth, Adam, the man, labors above
warm red earth, voracious earth that takes
the life it gives into itself, as soon replenishes.
We trundle back across the bridge, back to
the leaf-thatched drive, back up the asphalt slope.
What have we done, or what through us was done?
In us some interjection, some straight line
that slashes through the circle life and death
draw across time, circle enclosing
the silence it would spell, if no one spoke.



Tim DeJong teaches in the English department at Baylor University. He is the author of Hope and Aesthetic Utility in Modernist Literature (Routledge) and has poems in Waxwing, Rattle, and descant.




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