Crafty, intelligent, he has industrious hands – five-fingers splayed like a man’s, that telltale palm print I find so often in the mud, and running along the high-tide line at the beach, along the rim of the marsh. I follow these tracks for hundreds of yards, sometimes, pausing to examine where he paused, seeing what he turned over, where he dug. I smile a little every time I see his marks. His was the first track I learned to identify by sight and his tapetum lucidum the first wild eye-shine I ever saw staring back at me from the dark of the woods at night. He has lived everywhere I have ever lived and has been the scourge of my trash cans, my dog food and my Koi ponds, yet I admire him and weep just a little when I see the soft fur of his fresh corpses blowing on the highway medians on my travels. I imagine, in those moments, that panicked scurry cross the asphalt amidst the hum of tires and the glaring eye shine of Chevies and Fords, the shocking collision with the concrete barrier, the wall with no holds, no give, the unyielding obstacle that even his clever paws cannot outwit. What is must be like, that terror. Whether they have invented their own myths for those wild, screaming beasts that bear down upon them like grizzly bears with wings, Peregrine falcons of unfathomable size screeching out of the night sky with such terrible speed, but not even taking them, no food chain karma, no natural order this, this inexplicable assault that leaves father, mother, cousin Ralph, mangled, disemboweled, sometimes flattened completely, by the side of the road for weeks as if meant to serve as a warning to those who might dare to cross again, like the six-thousand crucifixions along the Appian Way that were a warning to the Roman slaves.
My road-kill photographs are not a glorification of death, nor some morbid fascination with the macabre. They are, for me, messages left in my path as warnings, as signposts, as reminders. The body, of all creatures, is fragile and vulnerable and it will not last very long. Each moment I spend beneath the filtered light of a willow tree is worth more than a number – on a clock face, in a bank ledger. I have hands that work as they were intended to and legs that will take me from here to there. But my fingers are easily crushed and the microscopic workings of my insides are highly vulnerable to malfunction, piracy, decay. These eyes, this jaw line, this hair and all that I see in mirrors, in photographs – that is not me. I am not a body, I am elusive and ephemeral and exist in no form that can be captured by any method devised by a primate brain.
Raccoon, raccoon, night scavenger marvel of the underbrush, survivor and evolutionary miracle, wild creature of the alleyways, with your mantis face and man-hands and that oblong wobble, what led you to this end, in this place, mummified and leathered with your bone-white canines showing me what you truly are? Why me and why now? For this your life serves some greater purpose. Look both ways before you cross the road kid. Watch the skies. Beware of those twin white eyes. That’s death come a stalking. That’s the string he tied on the end of your finger.
o O o