Death on Highway 62, Hardin County, Kentucky

By MICK KENNEDY

POETRY HONORABLE MENTION

The yellow squash on the parquet cutting board
is holding its breath, a little afraid,

but the shallots and zucchini seem perfectly okay
as the oil begins to dance and sing–

they’re going to a better place, I say
which is what we all say when

someone has fulfilled their purpose among us,
what you say about the black cat with its back

toward us, facing the corner, the cat that can’t taste
tuna no more because the tumor in her chest ulcerated

and leaks, making her swim across the body’s pond each day.
But morning sky still brights its chosen shade of blue

as I’m traveling the road toward Ye Olde Smoke Shoppe
to fetch my honey my sugar my baby a carton of cancer

sticks, the same place I scratched a $100 bingo card.
Riding the swells of 62, a starling flashing blue and green stands

in the west lane facing east says I’m not fucking flying
any more boys. You can have it, bane of my existence.

There’s a chirpy red head two hills over be-bopping along
in a wine-colored PT cruiser yammering away on her cellular,

hard bugs ricochet off my windshield, ones less armored leave
smears of guts, some are kind of pretty, colorful patterns

like arrow fletchings but try washing them off. Wings like church
windows you can pick off the radiator.

Dragon flies or butterflies stuck on a headlight or the grill
seem to say Geez bub, didn’t you see me? And what can I say

back? And there’s always fresh possums of different sizes
on the shoulder or between the white lines, some look like

Bacon paintings, innards arranged or squished
with thoughtful meaning, raccoons or skunks, depending

on the time of year, because they are looking for a mate
to keep the species going on until there isn’t a future. We

in the country will mow these critters these varmints down
for they harm us in a way we learned from our Grandpaps.

Maybe on the country roads at night or even in the day, feeling large
with a few Buds floating in us, we just make sport

of feeling the bump under our truck tires.
Where the road becomes four lanes, getting closer to town,

with a median, a white cross with plastic flowers—someone keeps
a square of ground next to the guardrail mowed nice,

and I don’t know what to say about that. Is it the place their soul drifted
up to wherever and fed the token slot at heaven’s turnstile. Quarter mile

there’s a cemetery, a number of plots have the solar pathway lights,
one or a few outlining the grave, and come December a few

Christmas trees sprout. But what gets me is the half dozen female
mallards just in the grass off the shoulder.

Now I’m doing 60-65, so I can’t tell if they’re decoys. Maybe someone
took them off a lake nearby, realized they bagged too many,

out of season and got spooked. That can’t be God’s way. From time
to time, I turn the dial on Christian radio, just to check up

on the Lord. Our farms are dying, the older folks all gone or fading,
and how are we what we are anyhow? What can anyone say? The big sign

for Severns Valley Baptist Church just yelps at a crossroads.
That church stops traffic every single Sunday. Smack-dab in the middle,

a smidgen out the way of vehicles turning, lies a catfish big
enough for a family’s pride. But it’s been there for a while, baked

by the sun, a might fossilized in mid flop, Seeking freedom,
did it muster a jump right out of the cooler? Did somebody take the turn

too hard and slosh it out? Leaning over the sautéed vegetables and rice,
a nice piece of beef from a neighbor’s fresh-killed cow

I probably heard moo one time or another, the Reaper tugs at my ear lobe.
The radio preacher swears that golden walkways await.

Others say it’s a dreamless sleep that we will be sucked up
into the cosmos, our atoms put into a new sun, another planet,

maybe a comet. What can I say about all that?
And the starling? It got flattened into the road, knowing more

than the rest of us now. Two butterflies drinking its juices.
In the gusts of passing cars fluttered two feathers raised up

from the small cadaver, in a V.

 

Mick Kennedy teaches creative writing, composition, and literature at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, where he also publishes The Heartland Review. Kennedy has poetry and prose published or forthcoming in Gamut, War, Literature & the Arts, Iron Horse Literary Review, The Louisville Review, Pikeville Review, Timbercreek Review, Cut-Thru Review, Willow Review, Indiana English, Pegasus, Mid-West Poetry Review, Old City Cool, decomP, Skylark, PoetryRepairs.com,Windless Orchard, IUS Review, Poets Pen Quarterly, and Reaching the Summit.


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