OUR LOST HOME
Told we can take with us all we have, which is nothing, we stumble over crumbled brick worn orange with age from its original red in the abandoned schoolyard we now cross. Once our scraped knees embedded with stinging gravel bits bled, but now home’s no longer a place we can run. Overgrown with our absence, any attempt at being recognized there is futile. The color of our rooms is no longer our color. Faces sitting at the kitchen table are no longer our faces. Neighbors no longer know our names, are no longer our neighbors. Although we’re not there, will no longer be there, ought to infer we’re somewhere else. Somewhere not much different than where we once lived. Perhaps here on Earth when it existed as a planet and not the result of humans exceeding their grasp with nothing gifted in return to the universe. Nothing, that is, but ignorance, miscalculated suppositions, and collective waste. Nothing but disabled satellites orbiting a scrapyard in space without the usual weeds, chain-link fencing, mud-deep potholes, or the flaking rust our still breathless air relishes. Nothing but the brilliance long dead stars freeze in our sight for as far as we can see without once looking back.
NO ADMISSION CHARGE
From where has the world come that we must all leave so soon? Was it already there before we arrived or something we created along the way? If so, what’s stopped us from making it perpetual? Is it that dreams come true only when we sleep? Is it that time’s accumulation weighs us down, wears us out only because we allow it? Is there no chance of us ever becoming perennial? Do we first have to be akin to purple trillium, fragrant tarragon or apricot bearing trees? Must we always start naked, crack open then cry aloud like a seed the Earth softens before it can sprout? And what of the growth over which we learn to stand and admire if not our own? What besides Earth nourishes it, what drips a simple water between the parted lips our mouths yearn to open from each fragile root end? What of the Earth we leave behind, left to its own revolutions? Will anyone be there? Will everyone be somewhere else? And that somewhere else, where will it be? Does searching for it mean it’s lost or by admitting it exists suggest it can be found? Either way, before every desolate expressway and abandoned boulevard we come across, it’s been hard not to look both ways.
Forced to learn an acronymic language, I choose silence and nod when questioned. The little I comprehend has been supplemented by a desire to preserve myself. I’ve grown sick of seeing my reflection in bent fenders at auto repair shops, in shiny magnetic security strips lining glass doors into bank vestibules, in a grocery scale’s thumb-smudged digital read-out, in a pharmacy counter’s closed-circuit tv, on the convex back of spoons dropped by babies off height-chair trays, in between a bloody fat speckled knife and its blade’s blinding flash, in wrap-around department store dressing room mirrors, at the bottom of not quite boiling pots of water, in car rear and side view mirrors, and in sneeze-guards protecting all casino buffets and salad bars lining the boulevards of false aspirations. Anything I can do to escape myself and avoid what all these sightings have done to me, becomes a maniacal priority. If I’m going to see myself, then I’d rather it be at the edge of this lake overlooking ice crystallizations caught between black shore rock. I’d rather be where water droplets collect in a cup open tulip petals form for a few short mornings. I’d rather be within a rainbow’s mist that shimmers my body in its transparent colors. Be this way or else fall beneath the spell of a language that’s no longer a language, a language whose utterances are mere symbols of the symbols words were never meant to be.
Snow, making ghosts of the wind, swirls past us on this desolate county road. In need of a fire, we hurdle guard rails in search of a place protected from road and wind. Night inches toward us. The sound of water’s rapid flow draws us closer to its source. Just over one of many low drumlins, we glimpse a fast moving creek splashing rock and twisted tree limbs fallen across its furious path. We locate a dry space under thick pines close by. The fire is small at first. Bits of twigs, dry grass tips. Either damp or caked with frozen mud, the wood’s kept close by the fire, fed slowly so as not to make smoke. Careful not to give ourselves away, to stay hidden, invisible to all but each other. If caught, we’d be jailed until a trial determined a verdict that would lock us away from ever hiding again. Careful never to divulge our whereabouts or that we even exist, we’re content never having to show up where we’re unexpected. Invisibility’s our presence. We’re at peace with the dust our shoes collect as a reminder of who we are with each and every step.
Paul B. Roth has been published widely in the United States and his work has been translated and appeared in journals from Japan, Peru, Israel, Bolivia, Italy, Ecuador, India, China, Mexico, Italy, Romania, Estonia and the UK. He is the author of seven collections of poetry of which his most current are Cadenzas by Needlelight (Cypress Books, 2009), Words the Interrupted Speak (March Street Press, 2011), Long Way Back to the End (Rain Mountain Press, 2014), and Owasco: Passage of Lake Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2018). In 2018, he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Fayetteville, NY where he’s served as editor and publisher of The Bitter Oleander Press since 1974.