Small Towns: ode (Keatsian)

For what it’s worth, most places on a map
merely exist as clots in highway veins:
mere wisps of web for speed or tourist traps,
perhaps historic, where that sense remains.
At thirty thousand feet that’s how they look:
just blips on distant radar, single grains
of sand on beaches that in recent books
rate just almost a star; not worth the pains.
But down here, where the highway meets the chrome,
a place takes on dimension. It retains
some spark, and for those souls that call it home,
an energy that tourists feed upon:
a tilting match between living and death.

The ebb and flow is more or less a tide:
a feast and famine cycle that repeats
quite often at so slow a speed, the ride
seems dull, not worth the ticket price for seats.
At other times, the fulcrum tilts so fast
there seems no forward motion or retreat,
just wearing down what once seemed built to last,
a winner’s gait slowed down to shuffling feet
that struggle two steps forward, one step back,
and finally collapse in a bar seat,
where like an aged and rusted Cadillac,
their owner basks in golden yesterdays
and stares out at new flowers every spring.

Sometimes, influx of new blood fills the streets,
its holy and exuberant refrains
erasing painful memories of defeat
and adding camouflage to ancient stains;
for a brief hour or two, time is forgot,
and with it all self-loathing and distain.
The shiny, feverish fish won’t know it’s caught
until the hook reminds it once again
from whence it came, and how its future runs:
a circumscribing series of events,
monotonous once they’ve just half begun,
and covered with the dust of drawn out days
as soon as the car’s headlights fade from sight.

7 APR 2017

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