pumping gas at the dim edge
of the lot, i hear a rustle,
stiffen, and see a squirrel
chased by no one.
i cannot shake the old place.

the air is different here—crisp,
and the wind that only straightens,
and does not bend the spine,
does not smell of siphoned gasoline,
sloppy cigarettes, worms, and rotting

and this is how it must have been

for them, those first and tardy ones

seeking refuge, seeking eden

in someone else’s world.

dour and starched and half-dead from the voyage,

did they challenge the branches to duels?


i cannot help but think of them—

their gaunt and waxen faces—those screaming

women with fevers and no mothers,

dying in the breach—

pilgrim: how the word has changed,
grown tawdry, disavowed.
i replace the pump and drive away,
still locking my doors.