The Long Road Out (by Jordan Dunham)
The long road out
is filled with snakeskins
thrown to the side
of a cornfield piling next to a boy
who decided to sit and count his toes
around the fallen husks, drier
than winter’s air. It is filled
with stark air crisping
through abandoned tires, a broken
couch that fell behind
a moving truck for someone
who gets tired. No mailboxes
for letters to move in
or out. It is a journey
that will not end well. There
are shoestrings tangled
but pointed onward, and more
potholes filled with rocks.
Hitchhikers wander with mouths
staying open but not making
a sound with their thumbs
in the air. They are women without
shoes and babies carried on
their backs whining through hunger
for both of them. The road out reveals
itself step after step
when puddles brim
with rain. It is filled with questions
like what do men insist on when alone
with their wives? When freshly dropped
cigarette ends smolder and traces
of the last person brush weeds over, dusk
settles on the boy rising, kicking his way
home through the field, domed in by the white
winter sky, because no one came looking.
Flames stir in the husks and skins; smoke fills
each breath and rises sending no sign back to him.
For me, this links strongly to archetypal 'road' imagery... the promise of horizons and flight... but so many people finding only a mirage.
Bruce Springsteen's song 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' kept running through my head as I was crafting this piece.
(God bless you Pete Seeger- rest in peace).