The turkey vulture digs out a dead snake’s eyeball
and staggers on the yellow line
down the spine of the highway.
In the heat waves he feasts
bloody finger for a head
as I bear down on him in my taxi.
I’m driving Mrs. Castillo and her grown daughter
to the doctor.
Mrs. Castillo has cancer
and her daughter keeps her company
when she goes to chemotherapy
once a week.
Mrs. Castillo doesn’t seem to be afraid of dying,
they are both usually as serene and chirpy
as if they were just traipsing off
to the beauty parlor.
But at the sight of that mutilated snake
Mrs. Castillo starts screaming:
OH GOD! GOD OH GOD OH MY GOD!
twisting in spasms of horror
eyes shut tight and real nightmare tears
coming out from underneath.
Her daughter tells me her mom is terrified of snakes,
even dead ones.
She can hardly breathe through her choked sobs
and we are all on the verge
all except for the vulture
who calmly looks at us,
takes his prize and rises
into the clean blue air.