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The Possum by Ed Shacklee

The Possum

A light I stop for paints the asphalt red
and shows a possum isn’t playing dead;
a bump upon a country road, a white
and grayish remonstration of the night.

Feasting on the cricket and the tick,
unprepared and neither fierce nor quick,
a fuddy duddy relic, now run over,
who muddled through the thickets and the clover;

who had a dozen children in the spring
but now’s a flattened, matted, bloody thing
the vultures will descend on in the day,
and, like myself, has little else to say,

for sorrow like the headlights of a car
illumines for a moment what we are
till night returns and mathematics yields
half a dozen possums in the fields.

by Ed Shacklee

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Editor’s Note: It is always difficult to write a poem about roadkill—there is the grim subject matter, and the inevitable comparison to Stafford’s poem. However, this poem’s formal meter frames the situation within a philosophical context, without losing the emotional resonance of the experience.


4 responses to “The Possum by Ed Shacklee”

  1. Clark Holtzman Avatar

    Not the rhyme but the meter put me off at first, through the first two stanzas maybe. But then the meter becomes something of a comfort–like something to lean on–as the content takes me to the poem’s darker, deader, more tragic spaces. Thanks for that.

  2. Martin Elster Avatar
    Martin Elster

    Excellent poem, Ed. Poignant and empathetic. A nice counterpoint to your more lighthearted verse.

  3. freshpoetry@earthlink.net Avatar

    I love this one!  Sensitively written and wonderful craft!Donna Reis

  4. jvoor Avatar

    This reminds me of a poem I wrote years ago:

    Eulogy for a Possum
    Black night cocoons us
    red tail lights glow up ahead
    as we drive along the back roads.

    Suddenly we see
    a twisting, white body
    illuminated in the silent sweep of headlights:

    a possum
    hit by a car.

    Trapped on this road
    its soon-to-be grave,

    spotlighted for a second as we pass by
    then swallowed by darkness.

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