Academically trained in German language and literature at Colby (BA), Tufts (MA), and Harvard (ABD), Maria Luisa Arroyo (www.marialuisaarroyo.com) is an educator, a single parent, a 2004 Massachusetts Cultural Council poetry grant recipient, a 2008 Massachusetts Unsung Heroine, a visual artist, and a self-taught poet. Her collections of poems include Gathering Words/Recogiendo Palabras (Bilingual Press, Tempe, AZ: June 2008). The poem below appeared in her self-published chapbook, Touching and Naming the Roots of This Tree (2007).
On Our Drive to North Haven
95 South and no signs to warn drivers of danger,
of deer attempting to cross this highway
as if deer were like the trees here-
too plentiful too many to matter.
The first doe we passed in the breakdown lane
had collapsed under thunder clouds.
The second sunk into the tar, the swollen tan
of her side a blur to the boys in the back seat,
who were whispering about John Cena, Batista,
the Undertaker’s possible return, wrestlers on TV
more real to them than the death of does.
95 South and no signs here either
to warn drivers of turtles trying to cross.
Far away, dark helmets or rounded tire scraps.
Up close, two turtles as the speeding car
in front of me swerved but still clipped
and flipped the second one onto its back,
its feet frantic for balance, for life.
So the instant the cream pickup veered
into my lane and almost hit the back of my car
where my son and his best friend sat,
I knew in those slow motion seconds
that it took for me to jerk the wheel to the left
and out of collision’s path, in those slow seconds
the boys yelled “Mom!” as the litany of swears
erupted out of my mouth and scared them more,
I knew that the does and the spinning turtles
were the missing signs of warning, of danger.
(Cross-post from Women’s Voices for Change.)