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SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Even on a Sunday Drive

by Debra Marquart

it’s possible to break your heart.
this jumble of feathers, a smear
on the freeway, checkered dark

against a mottled white breast.
hard to mistake the rufous brown,
the upturned spray of red tail feathers

edged with black. strange to see
the moment when the efficient killer
meets the greater death

the blow dealt by a speeding car
seconds ahead. better to pity
the mice, voles, and rabbits,

the snakes, the tiny warmbloods
who scuttle in short grass under
a hawk’s swift talons. but their outline

in winter, perched in bare branches
like frumpy winston churchills
officiating the cold in topcoat

and tails, always makes you laugh.
and the sight of the smaller female
landed in the emergency lane

two miles ahead, staring backwards
with that look, where is he?
reminds you that hawks incubate

their eggs in cooperative pairs,
build nests like upturned bowls
of sticks to hold their young,

and mate for life. which makes you
want to stop the car and bend
your forehead to the pavement,

i’m sorry, i’m sorry, i’m sorry.
but the locked traffic pushes
you forward and three miles later

another distraction. a ryder truck
on fire across the median,
the contents flaming poker hot

against the horizon. already
sirens in the distance. three humans
circling the catastrophe.


—Honorable Mention, the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2017; first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2017-18 (Garden Oak Press, February 2018) and appears here with permissions from the publisher and the poet


SHJ Issue 18
Spring 2018

Debra Marquart

is a professor of English and the director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. She serves as the Senior Editor of Flyway: Journal of Writing and Environment and teaches in the Stonecoast Low-Residency MFA Program at the University of Southern Maine. She recently co-edited, with Robert Alexander and Eric Braun, a groundbreaking anthology of experimental writing, Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence (Marie Alexander Poetry Series, White Pine Press, 2016)

She is the author of five books, including three poetry collections—Small Buried Things (2015) and Everything’s a Verb (1995), both from New Rivers Press; and From Sweetness (Pearl Editions, 2001)—and a fiction collection, The Hunger Bone: Rock & Roll Stories (New Rivers Press, 2001), which draws on her experiences as a female road musician. Her memoir, The Horizontal World: Growing up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere (Counterpoint, 2007), received an ELLE Lettres award from ELLE magazine, an Editors’ Choice commendation from The New York Times, and the 2007 PEN USA Creative Nonfiction Award.

Marquart has also received other awards, including the John Guyon Nonfiction Award, the Shelby Foote Prize for the Essay, a Pushcart Prize, an NEA Creative Writing Prose Fellowship, the 2013 Wachtmeister Award for Excellence in the Arts, the Normal Poetry Prize from The Normal School, and the 2014 Paumanok Poetry Award, among others. Her work has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, Tom Ashbrook’s On Point, and Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac; and appears in numerous journals such as Brevity, Crab Orchard Review, Narrative, New Letters, Orion, River City, River Styx, The Normal School, The North American Review, The Sun, Three Penny Review, and Witness.

With her rhythm & blues project, The Bone People, Marquart released two CDs, and she continues to perform solo as a singer/songwriter. She is also working on a nonfiction book, Schizophonia: Notes on a Life in Music, which is an acoustic ecology on the art of listening, an autobiography of dreaming and catastrophe, and a meditation on the pleasures of making and performing music.

Author’s website:

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury