SALT TRUCKS OUT ON THE STREET
Salt trucks out on the street. Black ice.
Noah’s wife salted like Carthage.
The town encased in a glass patina.
The storefront windowpanes are jealous.
Orange pygmy snowplows
seeding salt and gravel on the sidewalks.
Ladybugs about their business.
Butter on a black mirror smeared
like a palette of streetlights and logos.
One misstep and you’re on your ass again.
The night is sumi ink.
There are no revisions.
Who didn’t expect
to die on the highway tonight?
Whose heart breaks like a poppy
glazed by the freezing rain?
Who's been broken off
the brittle tree of life
like a twig that snaps underfoot
to give the nightbirds under the eaves a warning
and the presence of something foreboding away?
Accidental, trivial, random, happenstantial,
how much that was imperatively crucial
perished for nothing tonight
like the driver of a tractor-trailer
that jack-knifed on the backroad to Plevna,
haemorrhaging alone miles from the nearest farm
while the ice fell from the aspen trees
like eggshell light bulbs
and forsaken chandeliers?
I stare blankly through a veil
of freeze-framed tears
crudely woven on the loom of the bug screen
at the subatomic causes
of astronomical catastrophes
and think of the collateral damage
of something so slight as a drop in the temperature.
Three degrees warmer and you would have lived.
But just as wet and three degrees colder
and you would have lived.
No malice. No mercy.
No one to look over the fallen sparrow.
You’re a casualty, you’re a tragedy,
you’re a victim, a bitter fact, an act of God
in a godless universe
that’s anything but self-evident
to those who can’t see in it
either a blessing or a curse
or believe the worst
always works out for the good, better, best
of a cold front that was just passing through.
Who added their emptiness to the abyss tonight
as if they were returning their lives
like shattered windshields
to the frozen watersheds
they took them from
as their broken bodies freeze to the pavement
until they’re discovered in the morning
and chipped away
like a statue by Michelangelo
who could see form in stone
and where the cracks in the marble lay
like fault lines and dangerous stretches
of asphalt highway we fall through
when the earth gapes
and swallows us whole
like a snake you can’t train
to bite other people
that eats its own reflexively.
I’ve tried to reconcile absurdities.
I’ve tried to measure the worth of a human,
noble and ignominious alike,
against the indignity of the way we die
but the scales limp with a heavy foot
as if they’d had a stroke
that paralysed them on their left side,
and left them with no feeling on the right.