Home. Not home.

In a year, the road crumbles. Men, I have known, grow bellies like lakes bloated with floodwater. Ruins of chain restaurants swallow my former town’s nose. Taco Bell picked off Labamba Restaurant across from the church, and the mural of the BSU players with burritos as-big-as-your-head is gone forever. On Morrison Road, the new roundabout, fine with grass, yields a confusion of east, west, north and south. Tower of Babel. I stop, confused. Later, I drive past Lisa Shaw and wave. She nods, but keeps walking. After all, I broke up with her by moving away. At MtCup, the auctioned-off Cup, three church members who know me are inside. It’s a small town. The latest owner buys me a bagel, hoping I’ll come back. I don’t have the heart to tell him otherwise.  Later, my poetry compadres turn up. They kept meeting for coffee without me.  For me, they had been sitting at the table of our last bull session for a year.  Since then, one has forged a poem in stone, the other is Internet dating. Life is good.

This time, I feel the going.  Kiss them on their cheeks.  Cannot bear their eyes.  Instead, cry over the eyesore of McGalliard: Captain D’s marquee, the Sixteen Shrimp Dinner $4.99 and Ecclesiastes 5:2, “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

On the way out of town I stop at the Village Pantry.  Hide behind the gas pump from the crazy professor, in silver beard, straw hat and Birkenstocks, who reads Reinhold Niebuhr and mumbles in Spanish, Dios, mio. He’ll talk, too long.  I drive out Spur 67. The crashed Chevy’s tailfins babbles from D & J Body Shop and Muncie 4 Liquor sign sing like sirens. The tattoo parlor raises a rebellion of mythical birds with wings raised, roses, and skulls in cowboy hats, with Cain-like Lonestars.  I give thanks for the ugly side of the town.  Makes it easier to leave.

But, for a moment, the White River’s wind, and the bewitching bend of Marrow’s Meadow flood me.  The big mouth-bass utters the clear words of memory: Jeff, Mike, my girls, my deck, day lilies, biking on roads between silent tick of cornrows … I quickly turn the wheel to the broken hearts of potholes, litter and ramshackle houses–exposed family secrets–and leave.

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