Dead Birds Hot



Dead Birds Hot

up for two days

in Strafford, Missouri.

my clutch has burned out.

I hustle on the phone

to cover the $478 for the clutch

it’s hot out here

burning hot

summer humid  dead birds hot

I get a hold of my buddy’s wife

in Manhattan

and she uses her credit card

to pay for the clutch

the mechanic

sets my car on the lift

I walk the small

street and buy a Duran Duran

tape for 25 cents

at a thrift store

and though I recognize

every song on the


I’ll keep rewinding

Hungry Like The Wolf.

I know myself.

my stomach is

on edge

and I walk back

to the shop and

the clutch is replaced

and I drive out of there

summer 2000

3 decades spill

into a foil of highway

and tiny rooms

a foil of cigarettes and caffeine

but I

am out of the clutch fix

and I reach back and pull

out a set of cassette tapes

I found in a thrift store

outside of


The Brothers Karamazov

read by Debra Winger

1 dollar for the 8 tape


and I listen to her

read and I drive through

the summer

and on the side of the

road I see a cop


a vagrant

and the vagrant is

screaming something

and his dog is almost

dead looking

I feel the wind pick up

out of nowhere and

it blows the air around

but there is nothing

good about it

and overhead

a few hawks

circle slowly

and a few miles

up I see

a motor home

on its side

in the median

and the entire

home is broken open

and there is fiberglass

and clothes and

half of the stove

on the grass

and this hillbilly

couple is sifting through

the remains while

the tow truck driver

talks on his phone

from inside his truck

and the woman is crying and

the children are sitting off to

the side watching

their parents salvage

what is important

and portable

I turn up my air conditioning and

increase the volume

my head is on fire

I drive Highway 44 west

and blow around faces

and dead animals

and yes, Alyosha

Hell is more beautiful

more vivid

and possible,

and my dog is sleeping next to me

on the front seat

new clutch shifts smoothly

without a sound

I eject the tape

and replace it

with a truck stop cassette

of classic country


drinking coffee

and eating black beauties

to stay awake

heart rate at incredible


sick of the east

sick of the Midwest

thinking of desert girls



thinking about everything all

at once

then nothing

a flash of nothing

and I drive the flatlands


the red dirt in Oklahoma

and it’s dark outside

I see some kind of

small animal sitting up on

its back paws and

it’s either a porcupine

or an opossum

or some weird


and through the stretch of

the Texas panhandle

I see a few armadillos

running along the shoulder

and I see two dead

in total

and one is

squished half

out of its armor

and I drive through

the night

been on Highway 40 now

and I pass this huge


off to my left

it’s as big as

God Himself

and I drive past it

and feel that

gnawing of


but I shake it off

and remember

all of the girls and

all of the faces and

all of the family

and my thoughts

spit out before

me across

the highway


Excerpt from Dead Birds Hot, in paperback or on Kindle and Nook.

About Jeff Stewart

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