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 lives in Phoenix and enjoys a view of the desert mountain that occupies its space surrounded by the city. He has had an unusual year in which watching the local wildlife has been a help in his recovery. Read other articles by David.