Beltway, #115

Up around the highway,
US 695,
looping by Baltimore,
and around your city
I’m sure, they’ve erected
an artsy barrier,
a great art deco wall
divorcing the highway
from the trees. Good enough
I say. If I wanted
leaves flown onto my road
or tar in my forests
I would have stayed back home,
on those old dirt backroads,
and scaled down main streets
that blanketed my town.
A wall, a wall, brainstorm
of interstate planners
to keep in noise and out
residents and children
who might otherwise try,
for some unknown reason,
to dart across the road
like a chicken making
some old ironic joke.
The mystery planning
produces have little
to do with existence,
design, necessity
or curiosity.

But at points in the curve
around our fair city
the wall juts back against
the forest, curves inward
like an awkward teenage
boy at a Friday dance,
creating a theatre
of the road one could sit
atop and watch the cars
motor along to work
and back home. What logic
creates such a structure
where there exists no good
reason, where builders could
have simply continued
their course just on the edge
outside the guardrails,
kept the walls coming down
on top of us. I see
no house or signs of life
that would require high
walls be fashioned near by,
only a forest, still
in its needs, cordoned off
from our soot and exhaust.

As I pass these high bluffs
feeling mindless and lost,
missing the smaller roads
of my small town, the hills
out on the horizon
buffeting the Hudson,
an old longing rises
up in me, not held back
by my commute, my move
to the city, the years
I spend rounding these round
streets. I see a hill, grass,
a soft place to lay back
and listen to passing
cars while staring at clouds
or stars or snuggling
with a high school sweetheart,
lover I never had
until college, being
that boy who hid against
the walls of the old gym,
perched up in the bleachers
staring down on couples
spinning round and around,
thump of music, the whine
of bad eighties music.

I’ve spent a life watching
the world go by in blips
and images on hills
much like this one. But now
I have no luxury
of time or space to stop,
pull my wreck to the side
of the road, abandon
convention, land myself
in debt and in prison
for ignoring the rules
of the road. When the cops
come to ask what the fuck
do I think I’m doing,
and I tell them sitting,
and they say come down now,
and I sit. When the cops
have to chase up the hill
to drag me down in cuffs
and stand me up before
a judge, when they suspend
my license and I lose
my job. Was it worth it?

For an afternoon perched
like a lonesome streetlight
on a pole. No I won’t,
none of us will, we love
too much our circumstance,
our lovers, our places
of employment, our things.
Somewhere a boy sits, parked
on his high ideals
in his black t-shirt. Walled
off from the outside world.

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A day is not done, until it's filled with words.

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