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after seeing a dead bear on the highway photo

its stagnant swollen limbs
remind me of my dad

& the years that i watched him spend
on my mom’s couch playing dead.

his body
like the bear’s—

brown matted fur, clotted
on the surface of flesh;

blood & bloated groups of muscle
catapulted into the mouth of

the highway, mangled,
a precious offering

to the grill of any car leaving
the mountain.

i just want to ask
did it hurt? does it ever

get easier to stare into the fog,
& pretend that there is an ending

where you can survive this?
when we finally pass the bear

my jaw is still clenched, holding
stones between its joints.

my dad played dead
for so long, we forgot to bury

the bones. instead we
carried him with us,

cleaned the fur, sealed wounds that
could never be our own. i’ve learned

the impulse of the body: to only wield itself
against what’s uncomfortable

& always hope to come out
on the other side




image: Aaron Burch