Audience of One

taking the old road

Imagine a long, dark river
of highway winding beneath
a blue, mid-morning sky
teased with lustrous clouds,
following the low land—except
for its crow's course,
like a real river, carving
occasional cliffs to either side
through the gently sloping rock
of the hilly terrain (or try not to—
the old paradox about
the polar bear and the red wheel barrow);
the double yellow lines wind through curves,
shrugging at either shoulder
at 55 miles-per-hour, then lift
straight out into the air
in graceful möbius loops
to lead in a play-tag of mind
like the chittering red squirrels
up in the mystery of oaks, off-limits,
over the elementary schoolyard fence;
the now trackless road twisting away
toward the receding horizon, uniformly
black as the fresh loam of land
newly harrowed before the tended lawn
or bodies have been laid in.
Here, without shade of trees
or municipal blur, with the eyes
creased shut, nothing can be seen
directly sunward; but in the other direction,
taunting the tired, incorporeal feet,
the rich western pastels of reds,
tans and greens, spread out below,
flow and clump, drying
from a noonday thundershower
like an unblocked Persian rug
which the attention keeps tripping on
whenever you look away or within.
Further along, the color dissolves,
gradually, chipping up, atomizing,
and the tiny flakes scatter, thinning
like freckles above décolletage
in an old magazine ad.
Now it is only the sheer momentum
that keeps you up and moving
in half-fall, your feet descending
faster than your mind can tell
into a bottomless black hole
but so relativistically
that you slow to a stop,
idling there forever
at the weedy edge
of a broad, deeper river,
hat cocked over the eyes, leaning back,
hook baited, line played out and tied
to a toe. You're after the big one,
to scramble back up the embankment
onto the traffic-jammed loop
or to arrive. Funny,
how it works: non-intuitively,
but logically, if you begin
from any point on either side
and then trace in any direction,
you end up in the same place anyway—
only the order of scenery is different
each time. You notice the cat's cradle,
made from playing connect-the-dots
with stars, begins to resemble
the pattern of lines scribbled on
the blacktop. Warmed and softened
in the clear midnight radiance,
you're drifting, so you don't much care,
a cool breeze floods upstream,
humming in your ear; in this condition,
the mind can play its tricks...
if you're asleep,
you won't even know it.

Kevin Cornwall © All rights reserved.

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