I wonder if this was the first time
you felt guilt snare
through your mind like a dirty river,
or if you, a repeat offender, live
for the heist. I can’t help but ask—
why Macy’s? Why not max me out
at some Podunk gas station on slurpees
and breakfast sandwiches, which admittedly
is the first place my mind goes
so who am I to judge, but really
all I want to know is how
you spent my money. A blouse?
Bathrobe? A blender? Disney films
have conditioned me to imagine you
as the villain—big, scary, potentially
deformed, but you’re just as likely
somebody’s mom in a mini-van driving
her kids home from play practice. Hell—
you could be some dude who’s into tiki torches.
Maybe you like ballet. What I want to know
is what you thought about the morning you inched closest
to giving up, if you ever imagine the world populated
with piranhas, if you’ll live in the penciled shadow
of the Washington Monument until the day that you die.
You should know, though you never will
unless by some random act of earthly coincidence
your eyes land on this poem, when I was 16,
on summer vacation my family drove
through Virginia on the way to Williamsburg.
That night, I fell in love with the word turnpike
and listened to a CD of classical music
while a sunset filled the rear window
with cantaloupe light as we drove deeper
into the dark mouth of a thunderstorm.
My dad cursed the rain and windshield wipers
as my mom gripped the seat cushion like a Catholic nun
clutching a crucifix. It was the first time I felt close
to something Holy, how a mountain can be a kind of saint,
that one day I just might give up everything to know
the kind of life that hinges on the seconds
between a flash of light and the crackling open.
It’s been years since I’ve thought about that drive,
since the rain cleaned the hard blue shell
of our Dodge Caravan as we made our way east
toward the ocean, and even though
you’ll never know who I am, because you spent
one hundred and fifty of my dollars
at a Macy’s buying only you-know-what, because this week
my life will be filled with one little inconvenience
after another, even if Virginia holds no space
in the car trunk of your heart, let me just say
I didn’t know a road trip could open
a window to another world until that drive.
I have spent years of my life chasing that feeling
like a fox after a rabbit. Did you not feel this too
when you handed the cashier the card with my number?
Did you not feel this when she scanned your items
and the store hung above you like a mystery?
Did you not feel this when the letters flashed
in green on the dark screen of the register:
One day, maybe in the company of your sons
or daughters, maybe in the living room of the home
you’ve lived in since the week the Berlin Wall
crumbled like saltine crackers to the ground,
your body will putter its last song.
A blues record, an Irish flute, a small bell.
Even if you can’t count the number of beats,
it will be the second number
we have to share.
Photo By hijukal