Footprints of a wandering mind

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I don’t make them. I intended to make an exception this year when a local magazine asked me to submit a few, and I did take a thoughtful stab at it, but to no good purpose. I am, it seems, resolute, in my anti-resolution stance.

My recent resolve has nothing to do with New Year’s. I have been trying lately to pay attention to where my mind is going when it wanders, and to focus less on bringing it back to where I want it than in following to see where it goes. Often it goes back. Sometimes it goes nowhere. In the absence of other things, you will find some of its wanderings here. As in the following . . .

* * *

Something got loose in the dishwasher last night. It was beating in time with the machine, a deep thump against the waterproof wall, like a primitive rainforest drum pounding out a prayer.

No, I wasn’t under the influence when, for a flash, I pictured the dishes dancing inside, spoons splashing.

There is a tribal tendency in all of us to return to some kind of roots, or to be taken away at a moment’s notice.

I have taken to running the same route every evening, so as to pass, purposefully, the same honeysuckle bush by the side of the road, out of place against the approaching strip malls, even though in the wintertime its scent stays hidden. Still, in warmer months, I made out the following beat in my footsteps:

Honeysuckle by the highway
one hundred paces past the
coin car wash, two hundred sixty
from the drug store sign,
halfway between
Home Depot and home,
between zero and sixty, its
fragrance drawn out by the draft
of sport-utility distractions.
In the driver’s seat, head bumping
the truck ceiling, my father’s lap,
his foot on the pedals, steering wheel
knob in my hand, jerking away
with each new dip of meadow,
he climbs out to unchain a gate.
I turn the knob on a broken radio,
skipping past silent stations,
the straight orange tuner unmoving,
like the haggard heifer, rolling her eyes
while I wait in the summer scent
of gasoline, of manure, of grass,
of tobacco, of honeysuckle.

* * *

I don’t like poems where you wind up where you started, so there’s a problem with that little set of lines. But that tends to happen when you wander. You take off to run three miles and wind up going back 35 years.


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