By Land

I’ve lived on dirt roads that bent and ended at a gate of pines,
the dust skipped up didn’t make my mother look like a dream.
I’ve lived on roads that could guide you across America,
I’ve only walked them to the next town,
the road we kissed on is gone, rich folks buying up
all the city in which we make do.

I miss when Sonny could do a wheelie
all the way down Person Street and no one would call the police,
because he was a part of the neighborhood like the honeysuckle
    bush
between two yards, and he was beautiful,
not like a horse standing alone in a yellow field
but like a man is beautiful.


Most of the little towns have a road nicknamed Devil’s Turn,
where someone’s brother died on a Saturday night
while Nina sang “Tell Me More and More and Then Some”
on the Caddy’s radio, the moon the color of the oldest cardinal.


Every road isn’t a way out, some circle back like a wolf,
you can’t get lost on them and they won’t lose you,
others wait for you to run out of gas
then come alive with what your mother said could take you.
Every road promises something like a father,
but when you arrive the town is empty, and you wait like a good
    child
questioning everything, the road itself
laughing like a drunk man falling into a roadside ditch.


The road I’m walking now is howling and full of moon,
hopefully it’ll lead to myself,
                                     hopefully they’ll take me home.


From Cardinal (Copper Canyon Press, 2020).


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Essential Reading, an anthology of works that inform, inspire, question, and call us into action, from Narrative authors.


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