ALONG Battersea Road, north of Kingston, Ontario, there is one of the many memorials erected by family and friends to a young man or woman killed in a car accident. Often, they are victims of drunk driving, either killed by the idiocy of others or slain by their own. This particular memorial was themed, with a heart on a telephone poll (the one he or she struck?) of tape and cellophane tattered by the weather; clustered around funerary corteges of flowers mostly matching that hollow tape heart. There is something ostentatious and gaudy about this spectacle, no matter how understandable the grief, anger and disbelief of family and friends. They demand to show that this young life wasn’t wasted because, through the sheer number of flowers, proof can be made that yes, he was loved and did make many friends. They are also intimately tied up with the act of driving: almost impossible to access without a car, and without a single word about the causes: most people do not want to be reminded they died stupidly. If anything, these displays are compensation. A grave is never enough, and the accident site, and death by car, a relatively and sadly common form of death, is made into tragedy.
ALONG Battersea Road, north of Kingston, Ontario, there are many corpses. Most of them have been smeared into complete oblivion by the action of cars day after day pressing the corpse further into the asphalt, and by the slow desiccation of beating sun, the opportunities of scavengers. The freshness of the blood is always the most shocking, at least in passing, and the way in which the corpse breaks apart in lumps of flesh, fur and gristle. As it ages, the blood fades into maroon, the fur or feathers become a grey homogeneous mass where bone and fibre became one with sky and ashen human stone. The complete corpses are always scattered on the side of the road, but whether they are moved there by the roadkill patrol or the actions of predators is hard to say. Very few are pristine: that too, is a shock, when the one blackbird is encountered whose feathers, head, beak and frozen claws lay in state. Usually even the roadside corpses are fragments returning to the soil, and only the grey curve of a beak and the last fan of a wing remain to mark the disintegrating corpse. The worst were the turtles, shattered as if by a hammer, half the body missing, a stretched and rubbery neck and three triangular shards of shell connected by the remnants of tendons. The frogs, their pointed toes and stretched out, lank remains were redolent of fallen flowers than amphibians. Across from Joyceville Institution, a penitentiary constructed in the 1950’s (and still looking every bit as institutional and oppressive as then) and alongside the toppled remnants of graves weathered and crumbled by a century of forgetting, was the ripped in twain remnants of a hare, perhaps: the head was gone, but what other animal could have been large enough of the dappled brown and reddish fur? The most pathetic: a smeared bird, species unrecognizable, with a single wing still, remarkably, intact, flapping with mechanical determination in the breeze. The numbers of these dead are surprising, and only on a bicycle is the extent of the death be noticeable. André Gorz vilified the “aggressive and competitive selfishness” of the car and its culture, and it is hard not to see the extent of this roadkill as another function of the car’s ability to make others “merely… physical obstacles to his or her own speed.”