Friday, May 13, 2016

The ramps to life and death

I slowly eased on to the exit ramp and was nearing the traffic light when it happened.  All of a sudden the parents with the children in tow decided to cross the road.  They rushed to the road from my left side.

"Shiiiiit." I exclaimed as I slammed the brakes.

Meanwhile, there was an SUV that was close behind me.  I worried that the driver could be distracted and will drive straight into me, and then I would be pushed forward into the jaywalking family.  I braced myself for the collision and turned the hazard lights on.

The SUV continued to come towards my vehicle and then stopped just short. Perhaps only a few inches away from the rear fender.  Phew!

I looked in front.  The family darted across.

After the last of them moved all the way to the right, I was able to finally smile at the parent geese and the goslings.

I looked at the rear-view mirror and noticed that driver's head also turned towards the geese.

This time of the year, the geese and their kids put on quite a show.  Once, I saw a big fat goose (which was my sister's favorite curse word, by the way) look both sides before crossing the road.  How do the damn birds learn these things?  Pretty soon a few of them might even begin to have meals with knives and forks with wine on the side.  I tell ya, some of these birds are way brainier than most of the politicians in this country!

But then sometimes the geese miscalculate.  They mistime their road crossings.  It is so heart-wrenching to see their remains on the road, or by the side. Which is what happened the other day as I entered the ramp to the freeway.  Two birds on the roadside, and one was practically in an upended position and stiff.  Dead for a while, I am sure.  No wonder the clean up crew was circling above.  

Life, to some extent, is simply dumb luck.

Dumb Luck
Corey Marks
The horse—its number smudged
by sweat and thumbs nuzzling

predictable exactas
stamped in black—stumbles

at the last, run too hard, run
beyond what her ankles could bear,

and the jockey, who’d driven
her ahead of the other horses

now churning past and flinging
back rings of dust, rides

her down, out of the grace
and rush of the race and into the hoof-

torn dirt, the shit and grit
and the shudder he’s lost control of...

Then another rush: people
flurry to the fallen animal, the jockey

is raised, stunned and still
he feels he’s moving—something roils

in him, around him, under him.
Words are inconsequential

as flies. Dumb luck.
The animal won’t rise.

Nearby, the winner paces,
cooling, saddled now with the reason

for the day, heavy chest
widening against his rider’s approval,

each breath ragged and expendable
and replaceable as the printed bets

that drift the grounds, skittering
between knuckles of grass

beneath the stands where people
stare, the ones who got it wrong,

used to seeing what doesn’t come,
to wagering chances bound to be

nothing, nothing, nothing
but lost. Though someone got it right

and smacks his ticket
against his palm, exactly sure

of what it bears. He looks away
as the crowd around him cranes

and gawks into the afterlife
of chance—a white truck,

a man with an open-mouthed kit.
A needle. A hurtling world

closes like a gate.

The Threepenny Review
Fall 2010


Ramesh said...

Yayayayay. The goslings are back :)

Sriram Khé said...

earlier, when I was walking by the river, there was one huge flock--four parents and eleven kids. I didn't have my phone/camera :(

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