The orange State trucks worked the Interstate winter long,
pachydermal thunderers with wing plows and strobing dome-lights.
Now the smaller beasts come—to the residue of salt,
to lush new grass on the shoulders and on the median strips,
and as well to their myriad slaughter out on the murderous tarmac.
Just past Exit 18, a breeze awakens to stir
a gutted coyote’s brindle mantle. I tap my brake
to behold the colors, now dun, now gold, now black, now red.
Two miles north, wild turkey, an equal wonder of bronze.
By the Exit 19 ramp, a doe, a banality.
Porcupine near 20, a shiver of quills all around him.
At the junction of I-93: nothing left of the fox
but that matchless brush, the rest all ruin, a mix of hues
almost hueless. The farther up the river valley I go,
the worse my radio, till I’m way at the top extreme
of the AM dial, where a crazed right-winger extols the free
market, recalling one of traitorous Trump’s few adjectives:
magic. The ranter gives way to some macho Dodge commercial,
in which a pickup truck is said to “tame the mightiest
mountain,” and then he resumes his screed. The world is not
what it ought to be, he insists: some old Snoop Dogg CD
is a glorification, he says, of “sex, money, and murder.”
The shock jock’s a bit out of date. In a lot of ways. I make ready
to tune him out when he fades into crackle. Then québecois music
takes over, squeeze boxes wheezing as I speed toward the border.
I pass some plies of a semi’s tire and the double-tiered smear
of black where the big rig must have braked a bit too late.
There’s a fresh coat of red on the roadbed: moose-blood, I suspect,
though the carcass has been hauled off. My car is shiny new,
quiet, state of the art: my windows rolled up tight,
I hear nothing outside, not even the whoosh of my wheels. La frontière
awaits me, the signs now bilingual. Only a few more miles
left in my nation. I see Jay Peak, still snowy, to westward.
Just south of Stanstead, a burnt umber woodchuck, the first of spring,
2023, its belly and legs pointed skyward,
the whole of its being somehow miraculously intact.
From my radio, a mournful tune from the 1960s.
Maintenant, the singer wonders—maintenant que vais-je faire?
by Sydney Lea
Editor’s Note: This poem’s layered complexity (imagery, narrative, time) requires more than one read to truly appreciate its skillful beauty.