Atlanta Teen Voices / all

Poetry Finalist: “Soul Journey / Passing”

by share

I got into the habit of checking out while I could.
Driving out of the state I saw
mountains and speedways but I was still waiting for something specific.

Driving into the city sure is something.
It’s a place full of screaming
and houses packed with crumbling people waiting for something specific.

My self-imposed solitude means that I will be there again — all the places.
From the bookshop where I sat on the floor reading about love and birds
to streets of exhaust and exotic cafés and fragrant sidewalks doused with rain.

My family and I made our way down the Blue Ridge Parkway over a year ago.
Speeding through the trees and I reached an arm out to stroke the wind
like a sky horse it galloped from well above sea level to the roads of bears and leaves.

I bought my first book of poetry in that same bookshop, though those weren’t better days.
I was fourteen and sat by my window, watching the cherry and pear trees shake off
their blossoms — I thought it looked like spring snow.

I got into the habit of being like the one-time lover who leaves before first light.
Pulling my clothes back on and trying not to wake a boy from his slumber,
heading back out to every street I have known and have not.

I have a body built for late nights and early mornings.
A body that one day took hot chocolate and turned it into mocha coffee,
took a powdered sugar cookie and made it taste like a sip of champagne.

The last time I saw the beach I was thirteen and none of this had come to pass.
Yesterday I was floating through the city and I asked Mama
what’s wrong with our family, what happened.

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Don’t tell her but I’ve already started downsizing and packing up.
Before I die I’ll try to see it all, but come back saying that I sold my soul for love
in the form of a late-night café au lait or something else utterly benign.

I can’t take everything with me and that’s why I’ve begun to clean things up.
I’ll keep incense, candles, lighters, books, clothes, red lipstick, old recipes and shopping lists,
paint and brushes, canvas, musical instruments, sheet music—and birthday cards.

One time we all took a boat out over the Tennessee River.
My father and I were going to make it happen again last May but it’s all gone now,
the wheel’s turning — the dead things are dead.

I won’t say that newer things aren’t poking up through the soil.
Life can’t be about just one thing and that’s why we read people wrong,
I wish I could say that I didn’t bother anymore.

I’ll check out as soon as I can, really.
Different cities — I have a list of places where you’ll find my bones
someday when I am a dead thing that is dead.

I’m waiting for something specific.
Maybe it’s waiting for me as well, in a café at two am holding a cuppa coffee
or maybe it’s in a bigger place outside the world.

The test of importance comes in fifty years.
We — or I — will see what I remember of these seasons,
and I’ll know what happened to my road map and maybe write myself a letter.

Coming down to the front desk.
I’m checking out
and looking for something specific.

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