Roadrunner Variations

(Watercolour by David Chorlton)

One minute he’s
the desert’s angry soul
risen from dry earth, the next

a comic sent by drought
to make us laugh at our misfortune.

He never keeps appointments.
Each encounter comes
as a surprise, a sudden dash
from behind a bush

or Earth blinking back
at the sun.

He’s three parts shadow, one
clear light. And the clockwork ticking
in his heart

never slows to the pace
a lizard could outrun.

A compass needle escaped
and pointed all directions
at one time. It grew a tail, the bones
began to dance inside

its skin. All it took
was feathers to complete
creation’s plan.

He’s fast on the move and faster
when he’s still. There’s a coil
in his way with a rattle. He
circles and stands

back to give himself room
for a strike, when
he snaps the snake like a whip.

There and yet
not. The ground flashes. The air

the moment as though
time were not for birds.

In a ditch back of the drug store
nature takes a stand
against the city.
The tail

is raised among the weeds
to signal
no surrender.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978. He grew up in England with watching soccer as a major part of life although he has managed to move on to other interests since then, including reading and writing poetry. Read other articles by David.