A guy wearing a tie and a soaking shirt
was handing out religious pamphlets
today at the truckstop, asking everybody
have they been saved from eternal damnation by Christ
our personal lord and savior. I'd just picked up
four deads that were three days gone
from the heat down at Shafer Brothers Feedlot.
My mind was on air conditioning and fueling up
so I could get my load back to the plant.
He came over, wearing enough cologne
to keep a dog away from a dead wagon,
and asked me if I know where I'm going
when I die. A rancher who called me once
to carry off a palomino asked
how I liked the resurrection business,
and so I told that preacher I wasn't sure,
but I work in resurrection too,
and had to get a load to Wauneta before it spoiled.
Who is he to ask me where I'm going
when I die? Me and that preacher and a millionaire
will end up drained and pickled and dressed
in suits, and that's all any of us knows.
What's left is just a carcass the undertaker
powders and buries instead of hauling off
to the rendering plant. We both keep
the dead from piling up. People would know
if somebody wasn't there to keep those cows
from laying around getting ripe where they died.
I don't need to imagine more of a heaven
than the light inside of Five Springs Canyon
afternoons when cutthroats pop the surface
and bite on anything you throw in the water,
or watching pheasants break from a field of cornstalks,
or even having Rhonda call me Darlin'
when I stop for lunch at the Conestoga Grill.
I won't say I'm ready. But if I got run over
by a sugar beet truck tonight, I could die knowing
I did some good in life, that I was willing
to do a job not many people would do.
* * * * *
"The Dead Guy and the Evangelist" is from Notter's 2009 collection, Holding Everything Down.