I rode my bike this morning for
the exercise and healthy air;
for longer life I took a ride.
Not long I passed a dead squirrel, where
frozen in full stride he died
mid-sentence, mid-sprint, dead before
he ever knew that he’d been hit
in the middle of the road.
On my mind he was until
I passed a raccoon lying still
in a lifeless crescent curl as though
he’d stopped to rest a little bit.
Pedalling harder, past a baking
supple wood dove on the asphalt,
dime-sized blood pool at her beak,
as if she’d tried to drink the street
and found it merciless. The cat’s fault?
Maybe pellet guns mistaking
her a pigeon. Onward riding
up the long and winding lane
toward the hilltop cemetery
where wide views help numb the pain.
Low gear slow and torture every
next rotation turned by fighting
leg burn, lung burn, lunging heart beat
railing wild as if to slip
its chamber like a sea-lost fool
trapped inside his sinking ship
pounding furious fists though hardly
making any sound at all
until the top, where row on row
of manicured once-messy death
in clean-cut stones and plastic flowers
afforded rest, but just an hour,
the crucifix against my chest
insisting on the time to go.
~ Jeff Reed