A Trail of Bodies

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block
First Place, May 2013
Judged by Linda Sue Grimes


I’ve always wondered if she survived.
It was dark. Thirty miles from town.
Maybe a rancher or two lived out there.

My brother and I had brought our rifles
to the mountains, hiking, half-heartedly
shooting at a coyote or antelope, chasing

the sounds of elk sharpening their antlers
against trees, never seeing one. We got
to the paved road not long after sunset.

There was no moon. The old Jeep’s over-
sized tires thumped the pavement, caused
the cab to vibrate. The headlights poked

into the blackness, discovering the now
visible aerial world outside. From force
of impact, nylon insects sounded like two

pound creatures splattering the windshield.
Carroll and I sunk into the well-worn bucket
seats, exhausted, lulled by the drone of tires.

I saw her dark, startled eyes, big ears, black
nose, both of us moving so fast, the thud
on my side instantaneous with her image,

then the sound of the road and nothing else.
We stopped within fifty feet or so, examined
the damage: a broken mirror and the side

glass cracked. Arms dangling at our sides,
we stared into the scrub. A tumbleweed rolled
slowly past. The doe dazed, looking for her

family, hopefully, or dying in the juniper bushes.
Still, to this day, her bones crying in the wind,
lost in time–everyone I’ve ever left behind.


The haunting narrative of “A Trail of Bodies” offers vivid images: “the sounds of elk sharpening their antlers / against trees,” “The old Jeep's over- / sized tires thumped the pavement,” “Arms dangling at our sides,” “A tumbleweed rolled / slowly past.” While only one potential “body” dominates the poem, its possible ghost recalls to the mind of the speaker other bodies that the speaker has over a lifetime “left behind.” The long-term wondering if the deer survived gives pith and mystery to the poem’s urgency. --Linda Sue Grimes

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