Gabriella R. Tallmadge

Poem Beginning with a Line from Levis
July 21, 2021 Tallmadge Gabriella R.

Poem Beginning with a Line from Levis


As if we’re put on the earth to forget the ending,
I’m arrested each time I see them—


bodies of dogs and coyotes on the road.


Their static figures against the cruise control,
the sustained speed, indifferent wheels


kneading them over and the lack of recognition.


No flinch or yelp, no one stopping
the car to marvel at deadness,


the set precedence. The dogs anonymous


now as asphalt, highway weeds, the air.
Common bodies lacking actual energy,


but they’re shocking—their done aura, a history


instantly interesting. I wonder
if there was such a thing as loneliness


to a coyote. The one with the open mouth,


who had tried to cross the interstate,
smelled the other side, had wild thoughts


pulling her across the painted parallel lines,


had blood or birth or sex willing her forward,
who failed. I wonder if someone will miss


the red spaniel, thought the dog was unique,


an individual with preference and personality,
but how it is equal to its end and no longer


any particular it inhabited. I project


on them my own feeling of being derailed,
taken out from the trajectory of a plan,


surprised with violence which overtook


what was the only ceiling of my life—
the sky. Never casting much shadow,


the dogs intersect two lanes, modest


amongst chaos—rude against the rough
exhaust, commuter cars. I fear they don’t mean


what I want them to, but I am small


to the task of my life. How do I mean
oblivion when I can’t say the words it’s over?


Hypnotic at high speed, I forgot


where I was headed. All the cars
face the same direction. I miss when


I didn’t know the eroding wave of traffic


pulling overtop soft mouths, smoothing
molars into paint. Wheels churn over


a coyote’s form until it isn’t one anymore,
is now everything and not lost.

Gabriella R. Tallmadge is a Mexican-American writer and educator from San Diego, California. She is the author of Sweet Beast (Trio House Press, 2021) which won the Louise Bogan Award for Artistic Merit and Excellence. Her work has previously appeared in journals such as West Branch, The Adroit Journal, The Georgia Review, Crazyhorse, and Guernica. Read more at