Long Road’s Last Leg

— Casey FitzSimons

Heart swelling, bounding chest-to-mouth,
my hands clasped the new, callused dryness
of a boy’s hands. Horizon’s faint glow
signified a thrilling verge of happiness.

I sat in tended rooms, disillusioned,
sharpening cynicism, hardening pelt,
furnishing my emptied warehouse with the grim lot
of Chekhov’s characters, the sinister metaphors
of Kafka, the derangement
of Yoknapatawpha County. It took years
and years for time to pass, for Mississippi’s
pine hills and flat riverland to fault
and crease into the unattractive, nonstop
stripmall of central California.

I had to succeed and fail at my
defining endeavors, reify and disdain
the indices of self-worth. Place and era?
Not of my choosing. My seed-sack clothing
caught on the dried canes of expectation,
picked up its burrs. It took a very long time
to enjoy the crickets and chaff of mental
prairie, to inure myself to heaving ground
and dead skies, to rename as hum
the roar of planes and sirens and bass-pounding
muscle cars, to find the contours of land
under freeway interchanges and beneath
the artificial berms of office parks.

“Frontiers of the mind” I called
my introversion, pitching
frustration against the cinderblock wall
at the back of my head, denying
the sting of its rebound.

It did me good to get out. Not
from the place itself in which cargo net
and baby blankets tangled me. Just good
to remove myself from striving, take stock
of deterioration, abandon any pretense
of romantic interest, artistic advance.

Now, I feel benevolent,
sequestered. Now, the horizon glows
again, nothing but glassy mirage
between me and it.

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