Spring 2014

Edited by Andrea Spofford | Barry Kitterman | Amy Wright


Love Letter to Vacation

Gary McDowell

The road gives off steam.  All of it
evidence.  Take 440, merge east to 24, 

split further east onto 65, then south. The trouble
with directions, says my old man, is that 

they’re so damn definitive.  There’s no longer:
go past the third tallest pine on the left, 

take the second right and follow three bends
in the road.  At the abandoned papermill,

hang a slight left. No streetnames.  None needed.
The naming of streets came only after landmarks, 

only after suburbia: the word avenue from “to
approach, to come,” “a way of access,” “how 

to belly up to a country-house.”  To travel. 
You can’t go home.  The natural slope, the belly 

of a hill, a rusted fence, barbed wire. So much rain.
It’s a religious moment the first time you step 

on a northern Wisconsin pine cone barefoot.
The second time: I’ve already had a father,

and while one is alive, you can’t have two. In Louisiana,
they ask me if I want my beer to-go.  In styrofoam,

no one knows the difference. I order two more.  One way
to measure a bass: how much of your hand

 can you fit in its mouth. A creature that fears
the motion of its nest. The image of the valley 

is also the image of the universe.  I taste my own
body in the ocean’s sand, and I remember pleasure, 

as hard and for as long as I can.  It’s only June.
Swimming is a perfect silence.  We disappear.

Therefore, my beloved, the lake water is cold,
and home is that way: left at the pile of leaves, 

left again at the floodplain.  This is what we wake
to when we’re next to waking.  Look at the moon.

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