Michael Johnson

No way to tell what type, small, yellow
and mummified to the radiator, fanned
like some fresh-air fossil. One moment
flitting ditch grass, then on a gust, buoyed
over the bank, drafted into the Chevy's lights.
No gasp effort or desperation, just the grill's
chevron tombstone. Then the rad's dark
warmth to shuck its weight, leave it shelled.
That is the feeling: little birdy model,
tiny toy caricature of the self it once was.
These cooling tines now a restrack in a field
of smattered bugs, a small stick marking
its mounded body. I try carrying on, repairing
the headlight, the deer-damaged rad support,
as if this has not wounded me,
as if I came to a field and a stone cairn,
and knowing the dead, detoured, offered
in place of words, all my body knew left to do.


You'd be amazed what you find in the tines of a radiator. Over the years I've found bullet holes plugged with chewing gum, sticks and rebar skewered through, rocks that dammed their own craterholes. Enough bugs to make an entomologist cry for his mama. But this one time, lifting the grill away—that tiny body—for such a simple job, it took me so, so long to finish.