“Inches to Miles ” in Remembered Arts Journal
I have always been drawn to poetry of place–both real and imagined. As a boy growing up in the East, where states are small, I was in love with maps, especially of those states which were large and square. Once, when a teacher asked us to pick our favorite states and research them, I chose Kansas, although I had never been there. Now that I am older, traveling is more difficult, but I have learned that visiting the places in my imagination and my poetry is still my favorite way to travel.
Inches to Miles
I NEVER seemed to have a ruler
when I needed one, never
was able to measure
those scales in the insets
that would let me know
how far I was from here
to the anyplace else
I wished I could be.
I loved those Texaco roadmaps
creased into puzzles that never
got folded correctly so that the title
would show up on top.
Kansas, Nebraska, both Dakotas,
Colorado, Wyoming, areas so big
that each could only go one-to-a- side.
States where borders met
in straight, hospital-square corners,
plumb-lines really, right angles
filled with two-lane highways running
in cardinal directions that never began
or ended anywhere of consequence.
And towns: so far apart they couldn’t
cast a shadow one-on–the-other
if they tried, places so small
that when the legend gave
examples of population by the size
of the letters, these towns had
to be read with a magnifying glass.
No ruler. So, I had to guess distance
by putting my finger along the scale
then counting, length by length
between towns like I imagined
seafarers did when they held
fingers up in a clear, night
sky and wondered at
the eternity between stars.
And I, also at sea: wanting
to be anywhere but stuck
in school where time inched
so slowly that it seemed like
I was wasting the best years
years of my life in tenth grade.
Wishing I could fold it all up,
pack it all in, travel from
town-to-town in a world
of my own making
where I was the ruler
endowed with power
to count off miles,
measuring the distance
between each dream,
from knuckle-to thumb.
“Night Lodging” in Blue Lake Review