PILGRIMAGE


Snow falls outside the hotel window,
floating carelessly through the air…
and I don’t care.
The town spreads out below me:
A sprawling red brick dream,
with white capped peaks beyond.
But I don’t respond.
Crushing boredom, grueling emptiness,
purifying alienation:
This is exactly what I came here for.
There is nothing more.

The snow brings silence with it,
sinking into the frozen darkness of a Sunday night.
On these tired, sour, leaden streets,
the bitter desolation is too much to take
for very long.  I return to my station:
Stretched out on a bed,
gazing at a distant mountain range
or staring at a faucet in a trance.
It’s not refreshing, it doesn’t seem strange
and seductive, as it appeared in advance.
Far from the City of Refuge,
with no practical scheme,
constantly ruing the latest version
of what might have been; emptying myself
into the emptiness, negotiating the rush,
as a pick-up truck plows through the slush;
and I resign myself to another night, another day,
serving out a sentence.
I told myself I’d stay.

Outsiders here are quickly identified:
they’re clean shaven.
I observe the bartender’s warmth
with other customers.
Surrounded by laughter,
I watch the bubbles in my beer,
shooting from the bottom of the glass
to a rapidly nearing surface, evenly spaced,
like asteroids in a primitive video game,
and leave unthanked.
On the street a creature is drawn to me:
A vicious black dog, grudgingly restrained
by an unapologetic owner.
These excursions strike me now,
as they always strike me at this point,
as being selfish and pointless.
What am I doing here?
When will I learn?
Despite all the goodwill I brought with me,
the place gave me nothing in return.

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2 Comments to “PILGRIMAGE”

  1. This is a salient ride into a common american every place that’s hidden by the endelss sprawl, but as you point out can be every bit as alienating, and depressive, because at last, we are all human. And therefore over indulgent. Great poem. And the ending might be the most frugal of yours I’ve read.

  2. I like how you say you “don’t respond” to the landscape when of course you do or did. The elemental ontological paradox of the discerning (romantic?) poet: to obsessively register sensuous details in the world (or a world devoid of them) but stand, ruefully, apart from it. Nice.

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