My father told us never to look
at the dead animals along the road.
Our Ford sped past the stiff
fuzzy guts, sometimes freshly spilled.

It was out of respect. He said
the same about burned-out houses,
their black windows unblinking.
I wished he’d stop, though, so

I could walk back along the gravelly
shoulder, bend and touch the
crushed legs of a dog or stroke
the small face of a raccoon. Bodies

frozen, their innards like garter snakes
flattened into S-curves on the road.
I wanted to find what was missing,
what had called this carcass home.

–Christine Hemp
from Mañana Magazine

IMAGE:The Enchanted Forest: Marc Chagall’s model for the curtain in the first act of “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky, 1945, collage on paper.

About Christine Hemp

Poet and writer Christine Hemp has aired her poems and essays on NPR’s Morning Edition; she has sent a poem of hers into space on a NASA mission to monitor the birth of stars; and her essays have appeared in such publications as the Iowa Review, Yale Anglers Journal, and the Boston Globe. Her awards include Harvard Extension School’s Conway Award for Teaching Writing, a Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship for Literature, and an Iowa Review Award. Her poetry collection, That Fall, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2011. Hemp teaches at the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival.
Poems and Ponderings

1 response to POEM OF THE WEEK: Vacant

  1. Lewis Bancroft

    One day in May as I approachedthe base of the face of an eight hundred ft rock face called Owls Head, I found a bear dog nestled dead in the rocks. I knew it was a bear dog for it still wore the beeping collar around its neck. Most interestingly it had run off the face of the cliff for it laid in the rocks still in full stride with this expression on its face that could only be interpreted as terror. Whatever possessed me I don’t know, but I turned it over with a stick and it didn’t take but a minute to realize my folly. The most wretched smell that left me with no choice but to run like a bat out of hell. Your Dad was wise to drive on by.

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