"If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn"
My final grad school year, I made
a choice. Declined an offer
to continue as an English instructor, for life
on the road. To write, you must live,
I felt. And so, we embarked, my dream-eyed
first husband and I.
Made a choice, to stow boxes
in Mom’s attic (some to stay
until she died). And to crisscross
mountain paths, sticking to small
blue lines on the map. We wanted
to see the world we passed through,
not just blurred freeways.
Each day, consulting our map,
we’d find a college: wash up
in locker rooms, check email
on library computers. Wander
the campus like wild-eyed
prospects, then find
parks, or monuments,
or walking tours in the area.
And so I made a choice, to spend
that summer, first meeting up
with other hippies at
the Rainbow Gathering
in Missouri, then
snaking up the Mississippi. We
happened through Hannibal
just in time for Mark Twain Days. Walked
the paths of his books. Kids
parading down the street
in prairie skirts, dungarees.
Watched the fireworks over
the Mississippi River.
We visited the Field
of Dreams, pristine
baseball field swallowed by corn,
the two-thirds size house front.
If you build it, they will come.
And I made a choice to continue,
skirting Minneapolis, stopping
in Duluth, Bob Dylan’s hometown.
Beautiful buildings with covered
raised walkways, for winter. A sunny
walk past old, ornate houses. The lake wind
gave me a summer cold.
As we wound north, locals
became taciturn. Mosquitoes pursued us,
seeking our blood through air vents
in my Ford pick-up truck, Red Arrow.
At Canada’s border, customs agents
held us to examine our gear. Made us sign
a paper relinquishing fireworks
given to us by young guys
in Mississippi on Independence
Day. Taking a nap in a park
in Thunder Bay, being awakened
by a police officer. Move it along.
Then the bear, who’s already had
her own poem, who broke into our truck
as we camped in rough woods. Taking
our bread and everything she could carry
for her cubs as we cowered.
In Canada, the dream broke. I
awoke and made a choice
to stop running on empty through
the wilderness. No more
sleeping in the truck, living
like ciphers, unobtrusive and
constantly moving. I made
a choice to reenter
the daily drab. Apartment
lease, pizza job. Near home,
near family. Certainty.
(And though I didn’t know it,
divorce. Years of bad love.
A series of circuits, snapping
together to this better future.)
A choice I made, that set
the rest of my life in motion.