“roadkill” & “salvation” by Emily Clarke

Abstract rainbow illustration with long intersecting shapes


at first / it is a bloody burlap sack in the center of the 215 south / its corners flap like wings as each vehicle pummels it deeper into the asphalt / then / when it is my turn to straddle it with the wheels of my car / it is fur / a mountain lion / decapitated / or scalped / if you prefer / like my ancestors / those heathen redskins / a mountain lion / only a thin mass of hair / and pulp / and maybe paw / and the white boy in class with the feminist macbook sticker asks me if i am purebred / what he means is pure-blooded / as if that is any less of a wound / and i say i am not a dog / or a horse / and he laughs / like my survival is a joke we share / i am an ancient artifact / a zoo-animal / & big-foot when you discover me / when you discover my native blood / like i was yours to unearth / like i was yours to claim and remake / but when you learn that my mama comes from a porch full of white people down south / when you learn that the houses on my reservation have running water and enough power to make christmas lights twinkle year-round / you are disappointed / that you didn’t meet a real indian / blood-quantum is the weapon you use to silence me / blood-quantum is the stake your ancestors mounted our heads upon / blood-quantum is the three owls i saw this morning / white and feathered and talon-ed like angels / lifeless against the asphalt / i thought i heard their calls as i drove past / like laughter or groaning or song / i thought i heard them whisper from their paved-gravel graves / i thought i heard them say my name /


1 in 3 indigenous women
will be raped in our
lifetimes and i can hear
that clock tick, tick, ticking,
thousands of indigenous
women are missing as i speak
as my pen scratch, scratch,
on this paper
and i can’t smell fear
like a shark or dog
but i know how it feels
to wonder if your life
has already been written out,
to wonder if the inside
of your throat or belly
has been inscribed with
the map you are forced to
follow, with the placebo
statistics your people are forced
to swallow, maybe this is all
just a dream, i have heard
white people joke about that,
maybe this is all just some
elaborate performance art
and maybe, at the end,
we will all stand and
clap and wipe away the water
that drip, drip, drips, from our
tired eyes like juice leaks from
strange fruit and maybe then we
can all go home, go back to a
world where we are not
the punch line, where we
are not an ignored head line,
go back to a world where we
are the ones who get saved.


Emily Clarke is a Cahuilla Native American writer, student, bead artist, activist, cordage instructor, and traditional Bird Dancer. Emily’s work has been featured in journals such as News From Native California, Four Winds Literary Journal, Anti Heroin Chic, and Hoot Review. She has been a featured reader at events such as Indigenous Now, The Earth Was Shaken, and UCLA’s Environmentalists of Color Climate Justice Forum. Currently, Emily is studying Creative Writing at UC Riverside and is writing work exploring modern Cahuilla identity, female anatomy, social justice, and human intimacy. You can read more of Emily’s work at www.cahuillawoman.com and keep up with current events on her Instagram page, @cahuillawoman.

Illustrations this week are by Philadelphia-based musician and artist Rosali Middleman. Instagram: @rosalimusic