You can always get a National Geographic
back issue at the county library for a dime.
What you want though are the maps,
the way they marry their words
to the world—
because mostly we just come to go
by going. I took 347 for weeks before I knew
it had a number. I thought it was Shunpike
or Buckshutem but learned later, no—
these were other roads.
A bread truck hit a tree
at dawn. The rear doors sprang open; loaves
shot out. I was around the bend, then another,
maybe a third, before I had the thought
I should stop.
My youngest brother was five
before he spoke. When he was hungry,
he would point to a shelf above the sink,
and I would stand on a chair reciting:
crackers, cookies— reading between each item
his furious shakes and nods. In this way we determined
what game to play, what page to color,
which shirt he wanted to wear. And
when he came along crying, what
had happened, where did it hurt?
In there somewhere
beyond the gravel shoulder are the sand trails
the locals use to go from vanishing town
to vanishing and the felled logs which bridge the rivers
that drum up from the ground and run off
in opposite directions. Once I passed a quarter mile
of inmates in orange jumpsuits
clearing away trash tossed from the cars.
A blue van inched along beside them.
Their green bags flapped, in and out, dark
mouthfuls of wind.
are a crowded desolation, a tight stand
of thin white cedar and scrub. Late winter,
six hundred thousand acres of empty
limbs. Maps can lead us to the Hocken Lowlands,
Martha, Hog Wallow. They suggest
ontologically that nothing really haunts
the woods between Misery
and Apple Pie.
My brother is a Buddhist psychotherapist
who half believes
he was abducted by aliens
when he was small. He is practiced
in living a long time in the pause.
And I am …
listing— because isn’t everything we utter
a talking cure? Nothing troubles the waters
bog iron turns the color of tea.
And no one I know has ever seen
the goat-eyed, leather-winged thirteenth child
of Mrs. Leeds. But sometimes driving at night
or in fog, another fear:
because if you are not born here,
you may never learn the way. You find you have come
and gone instead
along a spur you could not name.